The futuristic dream of self driving cars could be a reality sooner than many people realize. In fact self driving cars already exist. Companies like Google and Tesla have cars that are nearly autonomous and lack a steering wheel or foot pedals. They could revolutionize the idea of driving, reduce the number of accidents or decrease traffic jams. That’s if the legal concerns encompassing them don’t slow down their full public release.

Self driving cars have added complications to the current legal definition of “driver”, and this has made it difficult to identify the at-fault party. Is it the manufacturer of the car? The software provider whose technology is used in the car? The human driver?

A bill has been filed in the Tennessee General Assembly that would make drivers immune from any civil liability if they hit and injure a protester who is blocking the road. The proposed bill was filed in early February by Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, and reads:

“A person driving an automobile who is exercising due care and injures another person who is participating in a protest or demonstration and is blocking traffic in a public right of way is immune from civil liability for such injury.”

According to the bill, if the driver intentionally hit the protester or did not exercise due care, they are not immune to being sued in a civil court. This bill is one of many that have been filed nationwide; each specifies similar protection for drivers, and targets protestors. Other proposed bills have been filed that would hold protestors financially liable for causing law enforcement officials to work overtime; thereby, leading to millions of dollars in overtime pay.
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In February 2016 Playboy model and ‘Queen of Snapchat’, Katie May, died after visiting a chiropractor for a neck adjustment. Earlier in the week Ms. May had fallen during a photo shoot and injured her neck. She believed to have pinched a nerve and sought the help of a chiropractor on a Friday morning. By Monday, after a weekend of extreme pain, she suffered a stroke. The mother of one remained on life support until Thursday in which she was tragically proclaimed as being ‘brain dead’.

The incident left many to wonder how the 34 year old suffered a stroke, something which tends to be more common in older people over the age of 60. According to the L.A. County Coroner, the neck adjustment tore a major artery in Katie May’s neck. This led to the cutting of the blood supply, and eventually caused a stroke.

Can Chiropractic Adjustments Cause a Stroke?

It’s a breathalyzer for cell phones. A new device could be the start to an end of texting while driving in Tennessee. State Sen. Lee Harris, Democrat of Memphis is pushing for a bill to be passed that allows law enforcement officers to combat driver distraction with the “Textalyzer”. As a spin on the “breathalyzer” this device can show whether or not a driver was texting just prior to causing an accident.

State lawmakers have already stated that texting while driving is equivalent to driving while intoxicated, and since 2009, the act is illegal and punishable by law. Enforcing this rule has proven to be difficult because a warrant for cell phone records is required. With the Textalyzer, police can plug the device into a phone and conduct a scan to uncover any recent texts, emails, or other messages which may have ultimately contributed to a collision. The device is not able to read the message’s content or see who the receiving recipient is. Using the results displayed, the officer could determine that distracted driving was a probable cause. Insurance companies and Tennessee car accident lawyers may also be able to use the Textalyzer results to settle claims faster.

As a law firm, we help victims of nursing home abuse and neglect. This is all too common with many elderly simply not receiving the quality of care that they deserve. Whether this means a failure to provide necessary medications or outright abuse, it is important to seek legal help as soon as possible.

New Rules Enacted to Protect Residents of Nursing Homes
Now, in an attempt to protect nursing home residents, new rules have been passed. These rules must be followed for a nursing home to receive money through Medicare and Medicaid. They include:

  • Binding arbitration is no longer allowed. In the past, nursing homes have required patients to enter binding arbitration agreements when they first became residents. This prevented cases from going to court and has kept many of the abuse issues swept under the rug. Now, nursing home patients must be allowed to file a lawsuit in court unless they agree to enter a binding arbitration agreement after a dispute has already been filed. For example, if a resident has a dispute a year after living at a facility, they can choose to enter an arbitration agreement but cannot be forced to do so. This provides greater opportunities for victims to recover financial damages after abuse.

As drivers and passengers, we count on airbags to protect us in the event of a collision. Few people would think that these airbags could actually be the source of trauma and pain. Unfortunately, this is exactly what’s happening with airbags produced by Takata. Typically found in Hondas, these airbags are incredibly dangerous and explosive. In one case, a 17-year-old girl lost her life due to this faulty product.

The Case

Huma Hanif was killed on March 31 after her Civic was in an accident. The airbag inflated like it was supposed to but not without a metal piece breaking apart and causing her fatal injuries. This is in-line with the reported explosions happening in the metal canisters that are part of the Takata airbag make up. Grieving for their loss, her family filed a lawsuit against Takata, the car dealer they purchased the Civic from, and Honda. All three have recently settled the case with her family outside of court. The settlements were for an undisclosed amount, as is common in these types of cases. Due to this incredibly tragic event her family will mourn their loss for the rest of their lives. Money can’t bring her back, but the settlement can ease any financial burdens caused by this loss.

We’re all guilty of checking our cell phones for messages, missed calls and social media updates while driving. As tempting as this action can be, it’s one which comes with a lot of risk. Recently, The National Safety Council has found that as many as two in three drivers pulling into shopping centers, parking garages, and parking lots are distracted. And further, that one in five accidents happens while in these locations.

Parking Lot Accidents Account for 1 in 5 Collisions

Deadly Accidents in Parking Lots

The leading culprit for such collisions is cell phones. One researcher involved in the study says many people understand the risks associated with using a phone while on a highway or busy road. But in a parking lot, they’re going much slower and this speed offers a “false sense of security.” It’s true that a driver’s speed is significantly less than main roads; even so, the consequences have proven to be deadly.

The November 22 Tennessee bus accident which left 6 children dead and critically injured 23 more has impacted every family within the state. Now, families of the children who lost their lives have discovered they can receive no more than $750,000 in personal damages.

Modifications to the Tennessee tort reform law in 2011 limited payouts in any personal injury claim against doctors and other relevant businesses. This law, says Tennessee bus accident lawyers, will likely apply to the families considering a civil lawsuit against the Durham School Services and district. The driver of the bus, 24 year old Johnthony Walker, lost control crashing into a tree and telephone pole. Chattanooga police have said Mr. Walker has been charged with six counts of vehicular homicide, reckless endangerment and reckless driving.

Mr. John Robert Williams Jr., was recently awarded 3.4 million dollars in a jury trial. A crane operator, he had filed a lawsuit after suffering a severe brain injury and becoming blind. This construction accident occurred when he was operating a crane in tandem with another crane operator. At the time, they were working to move a ship’s bow. Following orders, he stopped his crane while the other crane continued to operate. Immediately his crane began to tip and he had to go about trying to right it. Unfortunately, what happened next led to lifelong injuries.

The 18,000 pound counterweights flew up and hit his cab. This propelled him out of the cab and threw him onto the ground where he landed with such force that he suffered a brain injury and became blind. This tragic accident did not need to occur.

The lawsuit claimed, and a jury agreed, that the crane manufacturer, Manitowoc Cranes LLC in Wisconsin, was to blame because proper warning was not given about how the counterweights could come loose and hit the cab. With no warning, Mr. Williams was unaware of the danger to his life and the need to escape the cab quickly. If he had been warned, he could have jumped out of the cab prior to becoming hit by the counterweights.

Great news for families with loved ones in nursing homes or long-term care facilities. A new rule has been issued by the Department of Health and Human Services that will allow for patients in these facilities to file a lawsuit if something goes wrong. This is a drastic departure from what has been the status quo. Traditionally, most nursing home facilities require patients and their families to sign a contract that states any dispute must be resolved quietly through forced arbitration. The arbitration process is designed to keep costs down but it also keeps things quiet. Now, victims will have the opportunity to go to the traditional route by filing a lawsuit.  This is fantastic news for any patients and their families that have been frustrated by the system.

New Federal Rule Allows Families to Sue Negligent Nursing Homes
In arbitration, both sides hire an attorney and the case is heard by an arbitrator who is typically a retired judge or an attorney with extensive experience. There is no jury and the proceedings are completely private. Both sides present information to the arbitrator and then the arbitrator asks questions until they have reached a conclusion.  At this point they will enter a decision. With forced and binding arbitration, whatever the arbitrator decides is final. This can be problematic because you cannot appeal. In a trial, if one party is not satisfied with the decision or feels that something was done to infringe upon their rights or there was bias against them, an appeal can be made and the case can be heard by a new judge. This is not true of arbitration. If an arbitrator is biased or something is done incorrectly during the proceedings, there is typically no way to appeal and the decision will stand.

Preventing forced arbitration clauses in contracts is an important way to ensure that the elderly and their families have all options available to them and can take advantage of their full legal rights. This ruling is effective November, 2016. However, not everyone will be impacted by it. Nursing homes and facilities that do not accept Medicare or Medicaid do not need to abide by this new rule. Additionally, it does not change any existing contracts but will impact new ones. This is important for you to know because if you signed a contract in August, for example, you may still be under a forced arbitration clause. However, if you were to move your loved one to a new facility, their contracts should be under the new rule which would allow you to file a lawsuit in the event of a problem.

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