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Billings Personal Injury Law Blog

Truck driver clearinghouse designed to reduce accidents

Large trucks are a force to be reckoned with on the roadways. In addition to their massive size, large trucks may have multiple trailers or have big loads that can cause issues when driving alongside other vehicles on the road. It only makes matters worse when truck drivers operate their tractor trailers while intoxicated or under the influence of drugs. Surprisingly, a number of truckers have been taken out of service after law enforcement officials found that they were driving under the influence. As a way to minimize the number of accidents caused by drunk truck drivers, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has developed a Commercial Driver’s License Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse.

The clearinghouse is national database filled with information regarding drivers who hold a CDL and any drinking and/or drug violations they may have on their record. Certain entities, including medical review officers, FMCSA-regulated employers, service agents and substance abuse professionals have access to the information.

How common is failure to diagnose?

When you get sick in Montana, the first thing you expect your doctor or the emergency room to do is to diagnose your symptoms. Then you expect them to give you the appropriate treatment and prescribe whatever medications you need to get you back to your busy life. Unfortunately, however, the health care professionals you trust may not live up to your expectations.

As reported in the Washington Post, diagnostic errors happen all too often. Up to 30 percent of patients receive an incorrect diagnosis, far more than those patients who become the victims of other types of medical errors. Unbelievably, one recent study found that diagnostic errors in intensive care units account for as many U.S. deaths annually as breast cancer.

Family of four killed in catastrophic car accident

Thanksgiving is generally a time when families get together and celebrate. Many motorists travel during this time, and inclement weather conditions can make it difficult to get to one’s destination. As the roads are filled with holiday travelers, it is crucial that people take caution when navigating the roadways around other motorists. While it is generally a happy time of year, unfortunate tragedies occur.

This is what happened when a family of four disappeared while traveling to Ekalaka, Montana after visiting a relative’s home in Caldwell, Idaho for the Thanksgiving holiday. The wife was driving her husband and two children, ages 5 and 1, in a blue Toyota Forerunner when the vehicle allegedly crashed into a median after swerving off the road. The car continued to drive along the median for a period of time and then flew off of an embankment located just between the westbound and eastbound roadway. Once the vehicle was airborne, it hit into a concrete bridge support and then final came to rest in a creek. An ongoing investigation is looking into what caused the horrific car accident.

What is patient dumping and how is it harmful?

As you know, medical emergencies are rarely predictable. You might be taken to the hospital in an ambulance without having your identification with you, or your elderly parent might be admitted but, due to dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, is unable to inform the nurses and doctors of whom to contact to pick him or her up. It can be frightening to think that patients are discharged from hospitals in uncertain conditions, but unfortunately for people in Montana and elsewhere, this type of thing happens.

The practice of letting patients go from the hospital into an unsafe situation or before they are ready to be discharged is called “patient dumping,” according to Healthcare Dive. In a well-publicized incident that occurred last December in Baltimore, Maryland, a confused, disoriented woman was dropped off at a bus stop outside the hospital in freezing weather, wearing little more than socks and a hospital gown. After a concerned man brought her back inside and called authorities, an investigation was sparked. The woman’s family members were understandably upset that their relative, who had been missing and they were searching for, was treated this way.

Montana vehicular fatalities on the decline

People in Montana enjoy some of the most amazing natural beauty to be experienced anywhere in the country. The wide open roads can bring a sense of freedom and safety that sometimes is not accurate. Whether in town or on rural roads, car accidents can and do happen and may cause serious, lifelong injuries or even death. Records from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration show that vehicular fatalities across Montana have actually declined. While this is very positive, clearly more is needed to continue this trend and too many people continue to die on Montana roads and highways.

Looking at the five years from 2013 to 2017, the number of lives lost in car crashes has varied greatly. In 2013, there were 229 vehicular deaths and then the following year saw a welcome drop to 192. That was followed by a jump to 224 in 2015 but then by two years of consecutive declines first to 290 in 2016 and then to 186 in 2017. Fatalities in accidents involving either alcohol or excessive speed have also both dropped in 2017 but remain a serious problem as drunk driving killed 56 people and speeding killed 59 in just one year.

What could I do if I lost my job after a car accident?

Your livelihood depends on your ability to perform certain tasks. At the very least, you probably have to be able to make it to work every day. An unexpected accident could put your way of life at risk.

If you are like most people in Montana, an injury could pose a serious risk to your current and future earning capabilities. Fortunately, the law could provide a way for you to decrease the economic burden that a period of disability could put on you and your family.

Tips to help bicyclists stay safer on the roads

Riding bicycles is a fantastic way to get some exercise, experience the outdoors in a new way, save gas and reduce pollution. Bicyclists in Montana need to take additional precautions when they ride on roads that they share with automobiles. When cyclists collide with a car, the results can be devastating from traumatic head injuries to broken bones and death.

According to the City Of Billings, there are several treatments to help facilitate a predictable and safe cycling experience in the area.

  • Multi-use trails, often referred to as shared-use pathways are the foundation for the bicycle network. They separate motor traffic from those who are jogging, cycling, walking the dog and similar non-automobile traffic.     
  • Designated bike lanes along the roadways promote predictable travel behavior, encouraging safe-flowing traffic.
  • Buffered bike lines provide more distance between cyclists and motorists who share the roadways.

Could you be in danger from a truck rollover?

Large trucks are a common sight on interstates and city roads. While you know that trucks are essential to move goods through Montana and across the country, you are also aware that they can pose a danger to you and your family, especially when you are traveling at high speeds. You might wonder if rollovers are one of these dangers.

Any vehicle can roll over at high speeds or in adverse conditions, but semis and other large trucks pose significant dangers due to their size. Some accidents of this nature are unavoidable, but many rollovers could have been prevented. In fact, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, about 78 percent of truck rollover accidents involved a driver error. Such preventable mistakes might include the following:

  • Driving above the posted speed limit or too fast for road and weather conditions
  • Taking a turn too quickly or tightly
  • Driving while intoxicated, distracted or tired
  • Improperly loading the cargo
  • Failing to maintain the truck’s tires or brakes

Will your doctor reveal a surgical mistake?

When you undergo surgery in a Montana hospital, you do not expect that anything will go wrong during your operation. Unfortunately, however, medical errors do occur in the operating room and other departments of hospitals throughout the country. Today, more than 250,000 patients die annually from them, making medical errors the third leading cause of death in the United States.

While national guidelines encourage your surgeon and hospital to tell you about any mishap that occurs during your operation, CBS News reports that many physicians and hospitals fail to disclose such information to patients and their families.

State Supreme Court rules on expert witness dispute

One of the more important elements of medical malpractice cases is expert testimony. Most people in Billings may lack the medical knowledge and expertise needed to challenge a clinician's actions or decision-making. Thus, one who has similar expertise as those who are the subject of a medical negligence claim is typically needed to offer an educated opinion as to whether said parties acted appropriately. The process of qualifying an expert witness goes beyond simply saying one is so, however. Plaintiffs must follow the state's processes for doing so or risk having the basis of their cases challenged. 

A case recently argued before the state Supreme Court in Florida illustrates this point. The defendants in a medical malpractice lawsuit brought by the estate of a local woman argued that the expert witness that the plaintiff presented was unqualified. The expert in question had been pursuing educational opportunities immediately prior to the events of the case. The defendants argued that this meant that the proposed expert did not meet the standard of being "duly and regularly engaged" in the practice she was asked to testify on (which is a requirement to qualify an expert witness in Florida). 

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