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Every year, thousands and thousands of car recalls take place. For many Americans, hearing about a product defect can be very scary. But are all recalls emergency situations? A large number of these recalls aren’t going to have a serious effect on the drivers. According to a recent article from, numerous recalls happen for “less than perilous reasons.”


For example, “sometimes they’re for something as benign as a mislabeled sticker.” Or, in other cases, “durability tests find a suspension spring could wear out prematurely.” And even if your car is subject to a more serious recall, it’s not guaranteed that you’ll experience that problem. To be sure, “a vast majority of affected cars will never experience the potential problems outlined in a recall notice.”

Yet many of us aren’t always sure how to tell the difference between a relatively benign and a more serious recall. How can you learn specific details about recalls and whether you need to pay particular attention? And in the event that your car is recalled for a significant reason, what should you do?

Recent Recalls and Consumer Injuries

In 2014, a number of automobile recalls shook the news. Nearly 8 million recalls took place for cars that had certain Takata airbags installed. If you’ve been reading about the Takata air bag recall, you know that these automobile parts “are prone to explode in collisions, spraying passengers with shrapnel,” and “sometimes with fatal results.” Some of the automakers that use Takata airbags include GM, Honda, Toyota, and BMW. Honda was just recently fined $70 million for failing to report more than 1,700 injuries and deaths that occurred in its automobiles, according to an article in the Washington Post.

In addition to the Takata recall, GM also recalled about 2.6 million vehicles in 2014 due to a defective ignition switch. In certain cases, these cars could simply turn off during operation, resulting in serious and fatal accidents. And just shortly before news about the GM recall hit the internet, Toyota and Lexus recalled more than 10 million automobiles because of a problem that resulted in “unintended acceleration” and deadly car accidents.

Learning About a Recall

How do most of us find out about recalls? Whether an auto manufacturer issues a recall for a minor or a serious problem, it will contact car owners by snail mail or email, and it will provide instructions for having the defective part repaired or replaced. How long does an automaker have to alert you to the recall? Once it has informed the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) of the recall, it must let you know within 60 days.

If you find out that your car is part of a recall, you should follow the instructions—which usually involve visiting the nearest dealership—and have the fix or replacement completed. In some cases, the dealership won’t have the parts in stock that are needed for the repair. In such a case, you should find out if the recall “involves a key operating component, such as the acceleration, brake, steering, suspension, or fuel systems.” If it does, and the automaker suggests that you stop driving the vehicle until it can be repaired, it “should tow your car to a dealership and provide a loaner.”

Social Media and Product Recalls

If you want to stay informed about product recalls, social media can provide very useful tools. For example, you can follow your automaker on Twitter or Facebook. After GM instituted its massive recalls, it began using these precise social media platforms to let consumers know that they needed to pay attention.

If you do sustain an injury from a defective car part, you should always report the problem to the NHTSA and contact an experienced San Diego product defect attorney. You may be eligible to seek compensation for your injuries.

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Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) can have serious consequences. Even concussions, or mild TBIs, can result in significant threats to long-term health. Did you know that many people don’t even realize they have concussions? When head trauma patients don’t receive proper medical care and treatment, those mild TBIs can be even more dangerous. Now, research into a new eye-tracking technology, published recently in the Journal of Neurosurgery, promises to make concussion evaluations easier than ever.


Background of the New Brain Injury Technology

The new technology was developed at the NYU Langone Medical Center using 169 patients, according to a recent article in Forbes. Of those patients 157 were “neurologically normal,” or had no brain injury. Twelve of the patients had brain injuries, or “demonstrated specific abnormalities in cranial nerves controlling eye movement or brain swelling close to those nerves.” When these nerves are damaged—in other words, when a person sustains a brain injury—their eye movements change.

For the study, the researchers required the patients to watch television shows or music videos, and they monitored their vertical and horizontal eye movements. In patients without brain injuries, the ratio of horizontal to vertical eye movements is typically equal, or 1:1. In patients with brain injuries, however, that ratio changes. And depending on the ratio (more horizontal movements versus more vertical movements), physicians can locate nerves that have been damaged by head trauma.

While medical professional treating patients with severe TBIs typically can locate the source of the brain injury or the area affected by the trauma, patients with concussions aren’t as easy to evaluate. Often, the specific location of the nerve damage or brain swelling isn’t readily apparent. Now, this eye-tracking technology may offer a new method to make these evaluations.

Wide Use and Accessibility

One of the great things about this new technology, several of the researchers emphasize, is that it’s transportable to many different medical professionals and diagnosis sites. For instance, it won’t need to be used only in hospitals. Rather, emergency medical responders will be able to assess patients after suspected brain injuries, and more significantly, sports venues may be able to employ it to evaluate athletes.

Athletes in contact sports who suffer concussions can be at risk of life-threatening diseases like chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). With eye-tracking technology, sideline doctors may be able to use this “simple non-invasive screening test” to determine whether a football player, for instance, has suffered a concussion on the field.

Right now, the balance error scoring system (BESS) test is the one primarily used to determine whether athletes have sustained concussions. How does it work? It allows doctors to assess abnormalities in balance. However, many physicians emphasize that it’s a problematic test if the player has difficulty standing for an unrelated reason (such as a spinal cord injury or a hip injury). The new eye-tracking technology could be extremely useful when athletes in contact sports sustain multiple injuries, including suspected head trauma. To be sure, the new technology could be used regardless of whether a patient is able to stand upright during the test.

If your loved one recently suffered a concussion or other traumatic brain injury, you may be able to file a claim for compensation. Contact an experienced San Diego brain injury lawyer today to learn more about how we can assist with your case.

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Was 2014 really the year of the deadly hit-and-run accident in Southern California? Three deadly collisions that occurred just before the end of the year don’t bode well for car accident prevention and pedestrian fatalities in 2015. Hit-and-run crashes often are preventable, but when they do happen, it’s important to remember that you have legal rights.


Deadly Pedestrian Accidents in the San Diego Area

According to a recent article from NBC 7 San Diego, police have been dealing with a number of serious and fatal hit-and-run collisions at the end of the holiday season. By December 29, authorities were investigating three separate hit-and-run accidents that occurred on the same day in National City, City Heights, and Oceanside, respectively.

How did these deadly accidents happen, and could they have been prevented? The first accident occurred in the early hours of the evening at around 6:30 p.m. in National City. An elderly pedestrian, Armando Guerrero, 75, had been crossing the street in a crosswalk. While in the bounds of the crosswalk, a white pickup truck struck Guerrero before fleeing the scene. The victim sustained fatal injuries and died at the scene of the collision. Authorities have yet to locate the truck involved in the crash, which they believe to be an older-model Nissan or Toyota with front-end damage.

A second pedestrian accident occurred at around the same time. In this case, the victim was a 23-year-old man who had been standing on a center divide near 52nd Street and University Avenue in City Heights. According to U-T San Diego, police received a call about a hit-and run accident at 6:21 p.m. on December 29th, and emergency responders rushed to the area. However, the victim was pronounced dead at the scene of the crash.

Almost concurrently, another 24-year-old man sustained fatal injuries in a hit-and-run accident near Camp Pendleton. The victim tried to cross Interstate 5, and he was struck by more than one vehicle, according to police reports.

And hit-and-run accidents aren’t the only ones taking place near San Diego. Just a day prior to these deadly accidents, a tow truck driver was seriously injured in another collision in Encinitas. The tow truck driver responded to an accident that occurred early in the morning on the northbound side of Interstate 5, according to a report from NBC 7 San Diego. That accident involved only property damage, and required that one of the cars be towed from the interstate. An oncoming car “collided into the tow driver as he was attempting to get the vehicle up on the back of the tow truck.”

Hit and Run Facts and Figures

Hit-and-run accidents are on the rise in the San Diego area, but they’re also happening with more frequency across the country. A report in USA Today suggested that hit-and-run collisions are becoming epidemic in a number of major American cities, in particular in Los Angeles and San Diego. The number of fatal accidents of this type reported by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in the last several years confirms this trend:

  •      2009: 1,274 fatal hit-and-run accidents
  •      2010: 1,393 fatal hit-and-run accidents
  •      2011: 1,449 fatal hit-and-run accidents

The NHTSA continues to collect data on hit-and-run fatalities between 2012-14, but the early numbers appear to show a continuation of the upward trend. Can we make 2015 a year of pedestrian safety in San Diego? Time will tell whether hit-and-run prevention measures can help to decrease the occurrence of these deadly accidents.

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a serious hit-and-run accident, you should speak to an experienced San Diego car accident lawyer today.

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Outside the United States, legislation that restricts ownership of certain dog breeds is quite common, according to a recent article in the Sacramento Bee. For instance, in the United Kingdom, lawmakers enacted the Dangerous Dogs Act of 1991 after a pit bull terrier mauled a 6-year-old girl. That law restricts ownership of pit bulls as well as other breeds identified as particularly “dangerous” in order to prevent dog bites. In addition, it requires that dogs be “muzzled in public at all times.” Could a similar law end up governing dog ownership and responsibilities in California?


Fatal Dog Attacks Becoming More Common

In California and across the country, fatal dog bite injuries seem to be happening with more frequency. As the Sacramento Bee article points out, the terrible dog attack in Modesto, in which an elderly woman sustained serious injuries and her son was killed by several pit bulls, is a story that has become all too common. Indeed, according to, every day around 1,000 people in the U.S. must visit an emergency room in order to receive care for a dog bite injury.

And the dog bite fatality statistics show that Californians have been the victims of the most dog bite injuries in the last year. To be sure, California had the highest rate of dog bite fatalities, with 5 in 2013 alone. All of those cases involved pit bulls, and 60 percent of those cases led to criminal charges. Statistics for 2014 are currently being compiled, but the incident in Modesto suggests that the fatality number may prove even higher this year.

Some other significant statistics about dog bite fatalities include the following:

  • Pit bull terriers and rottweilers are the most frequently cited “lethal” breeds in the U.S. In 2013, pit bulls were responsible for 25 dog bite fatalities, and rottweilers were responsible for one. Together, they account for 81 percent of all recorded dog bite fatalities in 2013, and three-fourths of all dog bite fatalities between the years 2005 and 2013.
  • More than half of all victims who sustained fatal dog bites were kids under the age of 8 (56 percent). Of those victims, 61 percent were under the age of 5.
  • Of the dogs involved in fatal attacks, about half are characterized as “family dogs” (47 percent), and nearly 80 percent of reported fatal attacks occurred on the dog owner’s property.

Dog Attack Legislation

Certain cities in California have already adopted rules that require dog owners to neuter their pit bulls, as well as some other breeds that have been linked to attacks. However, advocates for reform suggest that cities like San Diego must take bigger steps toward preventing dog bite injuries, and perhaps even banning certain breeds. Can the U.S. learn from the U.K.?

Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen of Modesto indicated that she’d be in support of a bill like this, but she’s not currently planning on proposing one. The Sacramento Bee suggests that it will take a brave assemblyperson to propose such a ban, given the high rate of dog ownership in California. Yet at the same time, tougher legislation may be necessary to put an end to the high rate of dog bite fatalities in our state.

Have you been bitten by a dog? Have you lost a loved one in a dog attack? You may be able to file a claim for compensation. Contact an experienced San Diego dog bite lawyer at the Walton Law Firm today.

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Many Californians own dogs, but it’s important to remember that dogs can be very dangerous when they bite. Indeed, a dog bite injury can quickly become infected, resulting in severe and life-threatening complications. If you or your child sustained injuries in a dog bite accident, you shouldn’t wait to speak with an experienced San Diego dog bite lawyer. You may be able to file a lawsuit to seek compensation for your injuries.


Recent California Dog Bite Injuries in the News

According to a recent report from ABC News, a Modesto, California woman was mauled by four pit bulls, and her son died while trying to save her life. The victim, Maria Fernandez, 77, heard her son out back and saw that four pit bulls had attacked her son. “They were all around him,” she explained. Trying to help her son fend off the animal attack, she “tried to chase them with a broom,” but the dogs then attacked Maria. Her 54-year-old son, Juan Fernandez, managed to get away from the animals, but he came back to save his mother’s life.

Maria sustained “bites on her arms, shoulder, and head,” and she also “suffered a broken leg,” according to the report. She remembers seeing that she “had all blood all over.” She managed to make it back inside her house as her son Juan sustained additional attacks from the dogs outside. Juan’s injuries ultimately proved fatal. The dogs belonged to Maria’s neighbors, who have since moved away. The Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Office hasn’t yet determined whether it will press criminal charges. As of early this month, Maria remained in a rehabilitation center, receiving treatment for her injuries.

Another recent article in U-T San Diego emphasized that dogs can bite at any time, and dog bite injuries often require immediate medical treatment. Last month in Valley Center, a man had been driving erratically. One motorist described the suspect as “swerving all over the road” and failing to yield to other motor vehicles. Deputies engaged in a slow-speed pursuit with him, and the suspect ultimately stopped his vehicle, got out, and ran. The deputies released a police dog, and the dog bit the suspect. He was transported to Palomar Medical Center in order to receive treatment for his wound before being taken into custody.

Prevention and Treatment for Dog Bite Injuries

Before thinking about essential treatment for dog bite injuries, it’s important to consider prevention. An article on WebMD emphasizes that dogs bite more than 4 million Americans each year, and about 50 percent of those victims are children. Indeed, children are at greatest risk of a serious or fatal dog bite injury. And of those millions of victims, approximately 20 percent require immediate medical attention, according to statistics gathered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). What can you do to prevent a dog bite injury?

  • Choose a pet with a traditionally good temperament.
  • Don’t go near dogs you don’t know.
  • Don’t leave your child alone with a dog, even if it’s a dog you know.
  • Never try to approach a dog that’s eating.
  • If a dog does become aggressive, do your best to stay calm and to back away slowly—a sudden movement can cause the dog to attack.

Many dog bite injuries require immediate treatment. Without medical attention, a dog bite injury quickly can become infected. When you’ve been attacked by a dog, it’s important to seek treatment from a healthcare professional and to contact an experienced San Diego dog bite attorney. Contact the Walton Law Firm today to learn more about how we can assist with your case.

Photo Credit: Klearchos Kapoutsis via Flickr

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Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) can result from many different kinds of accidents; often, these serious and life-threatening injuries are not preventable. But if we know what kinds of accidents can put our kids at risk of a severe head trauma, can we work on better preventing these injuries from occurring?

Reasons for TBIs Shift from Cfile000478062624hildhood to Adulthood

A recent article on NPR discussed the different ways in which children sustain TBIs. Adults sustain brain injuries most often following involvement in a car accident, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Children, however, tend to sustain TBIs more frequently from falls. According to the article, the changes in the ways that children, teens, and adults suffer injuries tend to shift as “their forms of motion change.” And the types of fall-related injuries also vary depending upon the age of the child.

An article published in the New England Journal of Medicine emphasized that young children sustain brain-related injuries from different types of falls than do young adults. The authors of the paper are members of the Pediatric Emergency Care Applied Research Network, and their research involved analyzing data from 43,000 children admitted into emergency rooms from “blunt force head trauma” between the years of 2004 and 2006.

Falls Most Common Cause of Childhood Head Injuries

The article’s authors found that three primary causes of blunt force head trauma exist for children under the age of two:

  • Falls from elevation, or falls from heights, accounted for 54 percent—more than half—of all emergency room visits related to blunt force trauma to the head;
  • Falls down the stairs led to 14 percent of all emergency room visits for kids under two years old;
  • Falls to the ground from a walking or standing position resulted in nine percent of emergency room visits.

As is evident, the top three causes of brain injuries for children under the age of two are all linked to fall-related injuries. By and large, falls from heights produce the highest number of serious injuries in these young kids. At the same time, however, it is important to note that falls that occur while a child is standing, walking, or running can also lead to a severe head trauma. How many times has your child slipped and fallen while running on the kitchen tile? How frequently does your toddler trip and fall on the playground asphalt?

For kids between the ages of two and twelve years old, the researchers also discovered that fall-related injuries are the major cause of serious head injuries. The top three causes of head trauma for kids in this age group include:

  • Falls from elevation, or falls from heights, accounted for 24 percent of head injuries;
  • Falls to the ground from the position of standing, walking, or running led to 14 percent of brain trauma in children between the ages of two and twelve;
  • About nine percent of head injuries in this age group resulted from being accidentally struck in the head by an object.

As children grow older, the causes of their head injuries look more like those of adults. Specifically, teen head traumas most frequently result from assault (24 percent), sports (19 percent), and car accidents (18 percent).

If your child suffered a brain injury in a dangerous slip and fall accident, you may be able to file a lawsuit. Contact a dedicated San Diego premises liability lawyer today to discuss your options.

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Did the NFL turn over a new leaf when it comes to traumatic brain injuries, or is the league attempting to paint itself in a better light in the media? According to a recent post in GeekWire, the NFL provided $3.5 million in funding for brain injury prevention projects across the country, including one in southern California.

Head Health Challe_DSC6907 (1)nges Allots Funds for Brain Injury Research Teams

In connection with Under Armour and GE, the league developed the “Head Health Challenge,” a plan designed to give researchers “funding to develop new ways to prevent, measure, and detect brain injury.” All in all, it is a $60 million initiative that will provide money to different groups in the months and years to come. The challenge was launched last year.

How is the money allotted? In many ways, it works like a contest, and the NFL recently announced the winners. Seven research teams will each receive $500,000, and they will also have a chance at winning an extra $1 million in 2015. They can award additional funds if the organizers find “continued innovation advancements, potential for commercialization, and on-field impact.” Researchers from 19 different countries submitted proposals, and the organizers received about 500 different proposals in total between September 2013 and February 2014, according to the NFL press release.

These winners are part of the second group to receive funding. The first group of winners received funds back in January; their projects were linked closely to the diagnosis and treatment of brain injuries. This second group of winners, according to the NFL’s press release, contains research projects that will focus more closely on protection from TBIs and new ways to measure head impacts upon collision.

Winning Projects Range from Helmet Improvement to TBI Diagnosis

Some of the winners include:

  • UCLA and Architected Materials, Inc.: Based in southern California, this winning research team is in the process of developing an “energy-absorbing microlattice materials for improved helmet performance.” The material would be used as an under-helmet liner that would help to absorb energy during head hits.
  • University of Miami Miller School of Medicine: This research team is in the process of developing a “portable eye-goggle that gathers and measures precise eye movements,” which “will assist in identifying mild traumatic brain injury in real time, leading to more accurate concussion diagnosis.”
  • Viconic Sporting, Inc.: In Detroit, this research group is creating a synthetic turf system that will be more absorbent, and thus will help to make the football fields themselves safer for players.
  • University of Washington and VICIS: This team will develop a “revolutionary football helmet” created with a shock-absorbing structure.

The San Diego area, as well as regions across the country with amateur and professional sports teams, needs more attention to brain injury prevention. Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) can lead to serious, life-threatening, and life-long consequences. If you or a loved one recently sustained a sports-related TBI, it is important to talk about your case with an experienced San Diego brain injury attorney. You may be eligible for compensation.

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A dangerous truck accident in Fresno recently took the life of a 22-year-old graduate student, Ana Tapia, according to an article in the New York Daily News. Trucking accidents can be particularly deadly given the size and weight of these vehicles. If you or someone you love was injured or killed in an automobile accident, you should discuss your case with a San Diego truck accident attorney. You may be entitled to compensation.

Tractor-Trailer “Flying Wheel” LOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAeads to Fatal Injuries

How did the recent trucking accident happen in downtown Fresno? It appears Tapia’s car was hit by a “flying wheel from a tractor-trailer.” Tapia had been behind the wheel of a Toyota Corolla on Highway 99 when the wheel crushed her. Reports indicate that the wheel “rolled into her lane,” and then “smashed into the roof and driver’s side” of her vehicle. Investigators are not sure precisely how the wheel came detached from the vehicle, but the California Highway Patrol (CHP) continues to look into the matter. Some commentators described the scene as a “freak accident.”

But should we expect better safety inspections for tractor-trailers like the one involved in the deadly accident?  Should we need to anticipate that the wheels of big rigs can simply come dislodged when a traffic collision occurs? The victim was working toward a master’s in public health when she was killed, and those who knew her emphasize that “she was on her way to making a huge impact,” according to an article in the Fresno Bee.

Truck Accident Safety and Statistics

Big rigs tend to weigh 10,000 pounds or greater, so it is no wonder that these vehicles often cause fatal injuries when they are involved in automobile crashes. Indeed, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) emphasizes that large trucks often weigh “20-30 times as much as passenger vehicles,” and they are also “taller and have greater ground clearance than cars.” What does this information mean? In short, “lower-riding vehicles can slide beneath truck trailers, with deadly consequences.” And while federal safety standards require these trucks to have underride guards, the IIHS estimates that many of these guards often fail in low-speed accidents.

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association (FMCSA), fatal truck accidents happen more than ten times per day—every day—in the United States. Each year, these collisions result in about 4,000 deaths nationwide. And even when passengers are not killed in these dangerous crashes, more than 100,000 suffer serious injuries each year.

Based on data from the FMCSA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the number of serious and fatal truck accidents rose over the last several years. What is causing the increase in trucking accidents? The IIHS predicts that three major factors are at work in fatal truck collisions:

  •      Driver speeding;
  •      Driver fatigue; and
  •      Truck braking capability.

If you are in a smaller passenger vehicle, it is important to stay alert while you are behind the wheel. But if you or a loved one sustained serious injuries in a truck accident, do not hesitate to contact an experienced San Diego truck accident lawyer. Contact the Walton Law Firm today to learn more.

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It is always scary to learn that we could be driving an automobile that was subject to a product recall. In the past months, millions of vehicles were affected by a Takata airbag recall, and according to a story from PBS Newshour, it looks as if that recall is only continuing to expand.

Were you been seriouAirbagsly injured in a car accident caused by a defective automobile product? It is important to know that you can file a lawsuit to hold the manufacturer liable for your injuries. Contact an experienced San Diego product liability lawyer today to find out more about how we can assist with your case.

Airbags Can Release Metal Shrapnel, Resulting in Fatal Injuries

The defective airbags involved in the urgent recalls involve at least seven different automakers. Indeed, Takata, the Japanese automobile parts manufacturer, provides airbags for many different types of cars, trucks, and SUVs. Back in October, the U.S. government issued “an immediate recall” for nearly 5 million vehicles that were installed with defective airbags. The airbags, in case you have not read about the serious dangers they can pose, “have released metal shrapnel during crashes that has led to the deaths of at least four people.”

Since the federal recall, the consumer website providing information about the vehicle identification numbers (VINs) of those cars implicated has not been working properly. As such, it is important to check your VIN directly to see if your automobile’s airbags could be defective. By early November, the numbers for potentially affected vehicles caught up in this recall looked like this:

  •      778,177 Toyota vehicles;
  •      2,803,214 Honda vehicles;
  •      437,712 Nissan vehicles;
  •      18,050 Mazda vehicles;
  •      573,935 BMW vehicles;
  •      133,221 General Motors vehicles.

As you can see, millions of American drivers are at risk of a serious or fatal injury resulting from the defective Takata airbags. And those numbers continue to grow.

Recall Numbers Grow, More Automakers and Models Implicated

By mid-November, the Takata airbag recall expanded to include more Honda vehicles. According to a report in Autoblog, investigators discovered that a pregnant woman in Malaysia suffered fatal injuries in a car accident when the airbag inflator ruptured. This victim’s case was the first to be reported outside the U.S., and it resulted in the additional recall of about 170,000 Honda vehicles in Europe and Asia. With these additional recalls, the total number of potentially affected vehicles grew to more than 14 million.

Meanwhile, vehicles manufactured by Ford Motor Co. were also added to the list. A report from Automotive News indicated that Ford pickup trucks across the country may have defective Takata Corp. airbags installed in them. The recent death in Malaysia actually alerted the automaker and manufacturer to a previously unknown defect in the airbags. As such, Ford will be adding its 2004 and 2005 model year trucks to the list of Takata recalls, and it will replace both the passenger airbags and the driver’s-side airbags.

If you or a loved one sustained severe or fatal injuries in an accident caused by a defective product, you deserve to be compensated. You may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit and should contact a San Diego defective product attorney to discuss your case.

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Over the last year, we have read many news stories and seen various advertisements related to California’s medical malpractice cap. A ballot initiative, Prop. 46, aimed to raise the current cap to $1.1 million and to allow for inflation adjustments. However, California residents “overwhelmingly voted down Proposition 46,” according to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal.

In addition to voting against the medicameical-malpracticel malpractice cap increase, Californians also voted down an initiative that would have “required routine drug and alcohol testing for hospital doctors,” thereby reducing the number of preventable injuries in hospitals.

Background of the Medical Malpractice Cap Initiative

Just to remind you about Proposition 46 and how it would have changed medical negligence laws, we can take a look at the elements of the initiative. First and foremost, it sought to raise the state’s medical malpractice cap on non-economic compensatory damages from $250,000 to $1.1. million. Noneconomic damages are those for injuries like pain and suffering, which one cannot objectively quantifiy. The $250,000 cap was set back in 1975 with the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA). In addition, Proposition 46 would have resulted in some of the following changes:

  • Allowing for additional changes to the cap based on inflation; back in 1975, accounting for inflation, the $250,000 cap is closer to about $57,000 in the 2010s;
  • Requiring hospital doctors to be tested for drugs and alcohol, and requiring doctors that test positive to report their results to the California Medical Board;
  • Requiring the suspension of doctors who test positive for drugs and alcohol, pending an investigation; if the doctor tested positive while on duty, the initiative would have required the California Medical Board to take disciplinary action;
  • Requiring other healthcare professionals to report doctors who may be impaired by drugs or alcohol, or who may have committed medical negligence;
  • Requiring healthcare providers who prescribe medications to consult the California prescription drug history database before providing prescriptions for some controlled substances.

Yet the initiative did not pass, and none of these important changes were made to California law. Why did voters not want to make sure some of these changes went into effect?

Why the Medical Malpractice Initiative Failed

According to the Wall Street Journal article, the “no” votes for Proposition 46 outnumbered the “yes” votes by nearly double—those opposed to the initiative won with a 2-to-1 margin. Why did more voters not say “yes” to Proposition 46?

Advertising may have played a considerable role in the voting numbers. Medical malpractice insurers provided substantial funding for the opposition campaign, raising nearly $58 million in total according to MapLight, which is a “nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that tracks campaign contributions.” All of that funding seems to have washed out the proponents of Proposition 46, who managed to raise about $8.5 million to promote the initiative. As such, the medical malpractice cap for non-economic damages will remain firmly at $250,000.

If you have questions about filing a claim for medical malpractice, it is very important to discuss your case with an experienced San Diego medical malpractice lawyer. Although the cap for certain damages remains at $250,000, you may potentially file a claim for substantial compensation for your injuries. Contact the Walton Law Firm today.

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