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Newton NJ Personal Injury and Family Law Blog

Pedestrian deaths on the rise in America

New Jersey residents may be interested to hear the results of a study by the Governors Highway Safety Association that found that 5,997 pedestrians were killed in traffic accidents in 2016, which was an 11 percent increase from 2015. It was also the deadliest year for pedestrians since 1996. The 2016 data is a part of an upward trend that saw pedestrian deaths increase by 12 percent from 2006 to 2015.

In contrast, the number of all traffic fatalities decreased 18 percent during that period. While error on the part of both drivers and pedestrians may be to blame, the way that crosswalks are designed may also increase the danger a pedestrian faces. Those who live in low-income or minority communities are less likely to have access to crosswalks or other features that allow them to ride or bike safely.

Power lines and workplace safety

In New Jersey and across the country, workers depend on safety training and equipment to keep them from harm. In light of a mining accident that could have resulted in serious or fatal injuries, the Mine Safety and Health Administration issued a close call alert.

The accident occurred when a tractor-trailer, failing to maintain the recommendation of keeping a 10-foot clearance from power lines, contacted an overhead ground wire after it unloaded gravel. The accident caused the wire to pull and snap an adjacent power pole's ground wire, which then caused the energized 13,800-volt wires to arc and trip the power. While the accident led to a large amount of property damage, there were no injuries. The MSHA stated that the accident could have caused an electrocution.

Research shows an increase in motorcycle fatalities

The roads in New Jersey and throughout the U.S. may be getting more dangerous for motorcyclists, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. While the overall injuries resulting from accidents involving motorcyclists are down, there has been an increase in fatalities.

NHTSA data shows that in 2015 there were 4,976 people killed in motorcycle accidents. This was an increase of 8.3 percent from 2014, when there were 4,594 people killed. The same period saw a decrease of 4.3 percent in injuries, from 92,000 in 2014 to 88,000 in 2015. During 2015, motorcyclists represented 14 percent of all people killed in traffic accidents and 4 percent of those injured. However, motorcyclists were 29 times more likely to die from a crash per mile travelled than car riders.

Self-driving trucks: A new day for technology and personal injury

New Jersey highways are some of the most congested on the East Coast, laden with trucks and trailers pulling all forms of cargo to and from ports, farms, warehouses and retailers. Drivers may soon have to contend with a new type of truck, one that is autonomous.

Several manufacturers are now in competition to be the first to bring autonomous trucks to the market. However, in a workshop involving members of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, a number of stakeholders emphasized the importance of continued human control over any autonomous tractor-trailers.

Poultry workers among most likely to get hurt

New Jersey residents may be interested to hear that chicken and poultry processing workers are among the most likely to suffer a severe injury on the job. This is according to a report from the National Employment Law Project. The report was based on severe injury data reported to OSHA between January 2015 and September 2016. Overall, poultry processing workers suffered 180 severe injuries during this period, which ranked 12th in employer severe injury reporting.

That was higher than the automobile industry, the steel industry and the saw mill industry. According to data between January 2016 and September 2016, 14,000 companies from 29 states reported severe injuries to OSHA. Two chicken and meat processing companies were in the top 10 for most injuries reported. Tyson Foods ranked fourth while Pilgrim's Pride ranked sixth on the list. NELP said in a press release that injuries could be prevented by companies following basic OSHA safety rules.

Identifying distracted driving as a factor in crashes

Authorities in New Jersey might eventually have a tool to identify distracted driving caused by cellphone usage. In the past, this has been difficult to establish, but now a device, informally called a textalyzer, is in development. The device could change the way police are able to establish when a driver had been using a cellphone illegally just prior to a crash.

With fatal car accidents increasing, authorities are looking for ways to identify when a driver causes an accident after using a cellphone for texting and other social media interactions. The textalyzer will work similarly to a breathalyzer. With a cable attached to the driver's cellphone, police will be able to identify the social media apps used just before a crash, as well as the swipes and taps made on the phone during this time.

Lead exposure in the workplace

Lead remains a valuable metal in many different New Jersey industries, including manufacturing and construction. However, it can cause neurological and reproductive harm if a person is exposed to too much of it. Even though the hazards have been well-documented, there are workers who are not properly protected against exposure.

Lead exposure can be dangerous as it can accumulate over time. As such, the risks also slowly and often quietly increase over time. Even further, lead exposure often does not have any symptoms, so employers and employees must be proactive. The Occupational Safety and Health Association established standards for the amount of lead employers are allowed to expose employees to. The absolute permissible exposure limit is 50 µg/m3 of lead over a period of 8 hours. However, when levels reach 30 µg/m3, there are certain actions that the employers must take to keep employees safe.

Safety at New Jersey chemical plants

Chemical manufacturing plants pose multiple risks to the people who work there. In order to ensure a safe workplace, it is necessary to eliminate the risk of accidents and find effective methods for preventing the occurrences of falls. This requires understanding the different types of chemical plant injuries and why they happen.

The toxic and very flammable nature of chemicals is what makes these plants very dangerous places to work. Workers may incur cuts, abrasions and chemical burns. They may also be prone to overexertion, inhaling chemicals, trips and falls and chemical exposure.

Accusations of domestic abuse in child custody cases

Emotions often run high during child custody disputes, and family law judges in New Jersey and around the country frequently have to determine whether or not there is any truth to inflammatory accusations. While malicious comments made in the heat of the moment may sometimes be excused or overlooked by judges, accusations of domestic violence are generally taken extremely seriously.

This is because child custody decisions are based on what is thought to be in the best interests of the child, and judges tend to err on the side of caution when there is even a small chance that children could be placed in dangerous situations. Claims of domestic violence may not only prevent parents from being awarded sole or joint physical custody, but they could also lead to the denial of their visitation rights. However, judges will expect to be provided with compelling evidence that abuse actually occurred.

Unproven risks and the changing legal landscape

When manufacturers bring products to the market that are potentially dangerous, consumers in New Jersey and elsewhere across the country may find themselves at risk. However, there are those who question whether the exposure of theoretical or speculative hazards to the public is beneficial. Case results suggest that in spite of opposing sentiment, failure to warn consumers of a possible safety hazard could leave companies and their insurers open to significant legal risk, even if the danger has not yet been scientifically confirmed.

Three staggering verdicts against Johnson & Johnson in 2016 highlight the pitfalls that companies might encounter if they fail to warn the public of unproven risks. In each case, plaintiffs claimed that use of the company's talcum powder products caused their ovarian cancer and that Johnson & Johnson failed to warn them of this hazard. Although a connection between the genital use of talcum powder and ovarian cancer has not yet been scientifically established, juries awarded the plaintiffs $72 million, $55 million and $70 million respectively.