IIHS List of Safest Cars Grows Amid Record Recalls in the U.S.

As we know all too well the reports of massive numbers of recalls by the auto-makers dominated the news during 2014. That overshadowed some good news in the automobile industry. A report was released by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) last month that contained some positive news. The insurance industry’s list of cars and trucks that do the best job of keeping owners alive in a crash jumped 82 percent last year. The number of vehicles ranked best for keeping occupants safe in a crash rose to 71 for 2015 models from 39 in 2013. Reportedly, that occurred even though the crash tests used to pick winners got harder. The IIHS report indicated that certain cars are now safer. Interestingly, Toyota Motor Corp. has the most models on the list. Adrian Lund, President of IIHS, had this to say in a recent interview:

Our tests show that the designs of vehicles to protect and even prevent crashes are greatly improving. The key thing people need to keep in mind is that defects are the rarity. Automakers are trying to get ahead of the problems and that’s why there’s so many recalls.

While I disagree with Mr. Lund on his reason for the massive number of recalls, I do believe current models are safer than older cars. The recalls now being made should have come about much sooner. Safety improvements among the newest models have been overshadowed by reports of known safety problems being concealed from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the public. Now NHTSA is issuing fines and subpoenas to pressure automakers to fix ignition switches and air bags in models that for more than a decade have been linked to deaths and injuries. The revelation of the defects has pushed U.S. recalls in 2014 to more than 60 million, almost double the previous record.

General Motors recalled 27 million cars and trucks in the U.S. last year, a record for any single automaker. The Detroit-based company has issued 10 safety actions of more than one million vehicles each, according to the NHTSA database. While defective GM ignition switches in small cars have officially been linked to at least 50 deaths and scores of injuries, lawyers in our firm know those numbers are very conservative.

Honda Motor Co, the third-largest Japanese automaker, has recalled 5.4 million vehicles to replace Takata Corp. air bags. Shrapnel from exploding Takata air bags has been tied to at least five fatalities in the U.S. and more than 100 injuries. Unstable propellant in air bag inflators can cause the devices to explode with too much force and spread shrapnel through the car in a crash.

IIHS, which does its own crash tests and enforces safety designs that are more strict than those required by NHTSA, is urging automakers to add technology that applies the brakes without driver control to avoid a crash along with stronger bodies for certain kinds of frontal crashes.

Among the safest 33 vehicles, which IIHS labels “Top Safety Pick+,” the Chrysler 200 sedan from FCA US LLC was the only model from a traditional U.S. brand. Toyota dominated the safest group with eight selections, and had a dozen models among the 71 top picks. IIHS has ratings on 195 vehicles.

The 38 vehicles in the less restrictive “Top Safety Pick” category included 10 models from the Detroit automakers and the rest from foreign brands. GM, with five models, had the most of the U.S. automakers. Honda, in contrast with recalls of older models for Takata airbags, trailed only Toyota with 10 selections among the safest for 2015.


The Deadline For Filing Claims Regarding GM Faulty Ignition Switches Passed On March 31, 2015

The AP (2/3, Krisher) is reporting that “the families of 51 people who died in crashes caused by faulty” GM ignition switches will receive money from the GM compensation fund, with another 77 to receive money for injuries, according to compensation expert Kenneth Feinberg. The deadline for filing claims was Saturday, March 31, 2015. As of Sunday there were “455 death claims and 3,447 for injuries.” Many are calling for GM to extend the deadline, “because victims do not know yet whether they can sue General Motors Co., the new company that emerged from bankruptcy protection in July 2009.”
According to The CBS Evening News (2/2, story 5, 2:30, Glor, 5.08M) Sens. Ed Markey (D-MA) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) are asking GM to reconsider the deadline, “as over a third of the vehicles are still not fixed.”
USA Today (2/2, Healey, 10.32M) reported that GM’s count of victims “only included people in the front seats who would have been protected, presumably,” if not for the defective switches, and only those driving or riding in models that were specifically recalled.


GM Resists Effort To Extend Deadline For Ignition Compensation Claims

The Wall Street Journal (1/29, Bennett, Subscription Publication, 5.67M) is reporting that General Motors has rejected a request from Sens. Edward Markey (D) and Richard Blumenthal (D) to extend the claims deadline for their ignition switch compensation fund. In response GM said, “Our goal is to be just and timely in compensating the families who lost loved ones and those who suffered physical injury. We have conducted extensive outreach about the program. We previously extended the deadline until January 31, and we do not plan another extension.”


Wal-Mart Settles With Family Of Comedian Killed In New Jersey Truck Wreck

The AP (1/22, Porter) is reporting that the family of James McNair, the comedian who was killed in a New Jersey Turnpike crash last summer that seriously injured Tracy Morgan, has “settled a wrongful-death claim with Wal-Mart.” According to the story, the “out-of-court settlement” is the “first stemming from the June 7 crash, in which a Wal-Mart truck slammed into a limo van” carrying Morgan and McNair. The AP notes that a preliminary investigation by the NTSB estimated that the truck driver, Kevin Roper, was “driving 65 mph in the 60 seconds before he slammed into the limo van.” The speed limit on that section of the highway is 55 mph and was lowered to 45 mph on the day of the accident due to construction. ABC News (1/22, Katersky, 3.41M) reports that the amount of the settlement is confidential.


NHTSA Scrutinizes Ford Recall

In an article appearing on the front page of its “Business Day” section, the New York Times (1/21, B1, Jensen, Ivory, Subscription Publication, 9.97M) reports that a week after NHTSA Administrator Mark R. Rosekind said he planned on being “more vigilant on safety,” the NHTSA has “taken the unusual move of revisiting the 2013 recall of Ford’s biggest pickup trucks.” The initial recall, which was issued to repair a stalling problem, was limited to nearly 3,000 trucks that were used as ambulances. However, citing several complaints from drivers, the NHTSA notified Ford that “it is now investigating whether that recall should be” expanded, to include almost “197,000 additional pickups that have similar engines but are not used as ambulances,” according to the report. The Times goes on to note that recall queries, such as the investigation into the Ford recall, are “unusual,” noting that there were only four recall queries in 2014.


NHTSA Investigates Jeep Cherokee Vehicles After Reports Of Fires

Bloomberg News (1/17, Plungis, 2.94M) reports that NHTSA has begun “a defect investigation into the latest model of the Jeep Cherokee sport-utility vehicle after an owner reported 20-foot flames shot out of its engine compartment after being parked,” which spreads across 50,415 vehicles built for the 2015 model year. The article states that NHTSA routinely starts investigations “based on a single complaint” when the agency “believes the alleged defect is especially dangerous.”
Reuters (1/17) reports that Fiat Chrysler spokesperson Eric Mayne stated the company plans to cooperate to the fullest with NHTSA.
The Auto World News (1/16, 1K) reported that NHTSA Deputy Administrator David Friedman told the press back in November that Jeep has “to get their act in gear,” adding that “They’ve got to make sure that they are getting those parts in the hands of consumers.”


Dietary Supplements Manufacturer Shuts Down After Federal Lawsuit

The Los Angeles Times (1/17, Panzar, 3.49M) reported that a pharmaceuticals manufacturer in Los Angeles “agreed to close its operations and to recall and destroy all the dietary supplements it has sold since 2011 as part of an agreement with” the FDA. According to a lawsuit filed by the DOJ and FDA, the manufacturer “distributed unapproved supplements that claimed to treat diabetes, allergies and cancer. “ The AP (1/16) and Medical Daily (1/18, Olson, 85K) also reported on the story.


Auto Parts Suppliers Step Up Quality Control

The Wall Street Journal (1/14, Kubota, Subscription Publication, 5.62M) reports that parts suppliers for automakers are working to improve their quality control process following the record recalls in 2014, including the issues with Takata’s exploding air bags and Delphi Automotive’s faulty ignition switches in GM vehicles.


Liability Claims Reduced by Hospitals in National Program

December 6, 2012 – Claims Journal
Initial results from a national perinatal improvement initiatives suggest hospitals can reduce harm to babies and mothers, and lower associated liability claims and pay-outs, through the use of high-reliability perinatal teams.
Results from Phase 1 (2008-2010) of the Premier Perinatal Safety Initiative (PPSI), a Premier healthcare alliance project, show that the 14 participating hospitals have reduced harm and liability since the program’s baseline period (2006-2007).
In relation to harm, PPSI hospitals have reduced, on average:
• Birth hypoxia and asphyxia, which can cause infant brain damage, by 25 percent.
• Neonatal birth trauma, which can range from minor bruising to nerve or brain damage, by 22 percent. In addition, all hospitals were below the 2008 AHRQ Provider Rate, a national comparative rate measuring perinatal harm.
• Complications from administrating anesthesia during labor/delivery, which include cardiac arrest and other cardiac complications, by 15 percent.
• Postpartum hemorrhage, the most common cause of perinatal maternal death in the developed world, by 5.4 percent.
• The adverse outcome index rate, which measures the number of patients with one or more of the identified adverse events as a proportion of total deliveries, by 7.5 percent.
Because of these improvements, approximately 110 fewer mothers and babies experienced these harms.
Reduced liability claims
In addition, participants decreased the number of annual liability claims filed per delivery by 39 percent vs. 10 percent at non-participating hospitals. PPSI hospitals averaged a total of 18 claims per year and project wide during the baseline period, that number dropped to 10 in 2009 and is trending to be at 8 in 2010.
Findings on liability claims and losses are current through November 2012. Because it typically takes two years or longer for a claim to be filed after an injury, final liability claims and losses will not be closed for some time. These results, however, provide clear insight into the trend in claims and losses.
Launched in 2008 by Premier and affiliate liability insurer American Excess Insurance Exchange, RRG (AEIX), PPSI participants are large and small, teaching and non-teaching, system-based and stand-alone, with employed and non-employed physicians. They represent 12 states, in which approximately 250,000 babies will be delivered over the collaborative’s five years (2008-2012).
“There’s no other area in a hospital where providers routinely treat two distinctly different patients at the same time,” said Susan DeVore, Premier president and CEO. “Even though childbirth is so complex and unique, serious adverse events during labor and delivery are rare. But they do occur – sometimes they’re preventable, but they’re always devastating for babies, mothers, families and care providers.”
“The PPSI seeks to better define preventable perinatal harm and identify care practices that can result in improved outcomes,” continued DeVore. “Our results to date suggest that doing so can lower the incidence of certain infrequent, though serious, birth injuries and their associated liability claims. And the diversity of the participating hospitals also lends well to possible replication of the project and its results nationwide.”
Leveraging knowledge gained from previous initiatives, including an Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI)/Ascension Health/Premier collaboration, PPSI hospitals use two powerful methods to create high-reliability healthcare teams: increased adherence to evidence-based care bundles and enhanced communication and teamwork.
Increased adherence to evidence-based care bundles
Research shows that grouping essential processes together in care bundles helps clinical staff remember to take all of the necessary steps to provide optimal care to every patient, every time. Although many hospitals have long followed some or all of these individual care practices to improve perinatal outcomes, the key is consistently using all of them in concert.
Care bundle adherence is scored in an “all-or-none” fashion; the care team must provide all elements of care in the bundle to be given credit for its use. For example, one care bundle is focused on reducing the risks associated with augmenting labor, particularly in using oxytocin, a drug that accelerates a slow labor. This bundle has four elements that must be practiced consistently. If a team neglects to estimate the fetal weight before administering the medication, it would not receive credit for the work, even if team members successfully implemented the three other elements of the bundle.
PPSI hospitals have significantly improved compliance with care bundles over the course of Phase I. These improvements led to 106,000 additional mothers receiving evidence-based care bundles.
“Over the past several years, our team has established a number of quality interventions designed to increase safety for moms and babies and reduce the incidence of already very rare perinatal injuries,” said Tiffany Kenny, RN, MSN, C-EFM, OB informatics administrator at Summa Akron City Hospital in Akron, Ohio. “By following evidence-based care models, we’ve improved the quality of our Elective Inductions, lowered the C-section rate for low-risk first time mothers and improved overall safety.”
Enhanced communications and teamwork
PPSI hospitals have implemented the following proven strategies for certain high-risk protocols:
• TeamSTEPPS: Developed by the U.S. Department of Defense and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), TeamSTEPPS produces highly effective medical teams that optimize the use of information, people and resources to achieve the best clinical outcomes.
• Situation Background Assessment Recommendation (SBAR): An effective situational briefing strategy, used by the U.S. Navy, to communicate relevant case facts in a respectful, focused and effective manner.
• Simulation drills: Exercises featuring actresses and mannequins reacting as real patients during the birthing process.
“These principles and strategies provide a foundation of clear communications tools and close to real life scenarios for use by obstetric, NICU, anesthesia, blood bank and lab teams,” said Becky Gams, RN, MS, APNL, University of Minnesota Medical Center, Fairview, and University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital.
The PPSI’s Baseline Phase consisted of the retrospective collection of harm outcome data from 2006 and 2007 to establish a baseline of performance. During Phase I, healthcare teams implemented interventions and actively worked on performance and perinatal safety improvement across approximately 145,000 births.
Phase II began in January 2011 and will be completed in December 2012. In June 2010, AHRQ awarded a three-year demonstration grant to PPSI participant Fairview Health Services to extend the initiative. The grant allowed for the Phase II extension, which is examining hospital bundle compliance and associated outcomes, and the role of hospital culture in perinatal performance improvement to further reduce harm and liability. The University of Minnesota School of Public Health and the National Perinatal Information Center will continue providing specialized data and analytic services during the grant phase. Premier will begin analysis of Phase II results when the PPSI concludes. Results from the entire initiative will be made public in the summer or fall of 2013.

Source: Premier healthcare alliance


Liberty Mutual’s Top 10 Causes of Work Place Injuries

By Denise Johnson | January 14, 2015 Claims Journal

Overexertion and falls account for more than $25 billion in workers compensation costs in the U.S., according to Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety’s 2014 Workplace Safety Index.
In its 15th year, the annual ranking of top 10 causes of serious, nonfatal workplace injuries is based on the company’s workers’ compensation claims data and data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the National Academy of Social Insurance.
The research institute examined 2012 claims data (the most recent available) for injuries lasting six or more days and ranked the injuries by total workers compensation costs.
10 Leading Causes and Direct Costs of Workplace Injuries in 2012:
1. Overexertion $15.1B 25.3%
2. Falls on same level $9.19B 15.4%
3. Struck by object or equipment $5.3B 8.9%
4. Falls to lower level $5.12B 8.6%
5. Other exertions or bodily reactions $4.27B 7.2%
6. Roadway incidents involving motorized land vehicle $3.18B 5.3%
7. Slip or trip without fall $2.17B 3.6%
8. Caught in/compressed by equipment or objects $2.1B 3.5%
9. Repetitive motions involving micro-tasks $1.84B 3.1%
10. Struck against object or equipment $1.76B 2.9%
The leading cause of injury on the list, overexertion, was typically related to lifting, pushing, pulling, holding, carrying or throwing. Other exertions, which came in at number five, includes injuries due to bending, crawling, reaching, twisting, climbing, stepping, kneeling, sitting, standing or walking.
According to statistics compiled by the City of Denver, 311 overexertion claims were reported by employees in 2013. Injuries most often occurred as a result of holding, carrying or lifting.
Recently, Accident Fund Insurance Company of America and United Heartland reported that close to a third of all Midwestern workers’ comp claims with lost time were due to slip and falls on ice and snow.
According to the insurers, winter-related slip and fall claims doubled between 2013 and 2014.
The top five states were:
1. Indiana – 37 percent
2. Wisconsin – 33 percent
3. Michigan – 32 percent
4. Illinois – 32 percent
5. Minnesota – 29 percent
Road deaths
According to the BLS, there were 105 worker deaths at road construction sites in 2013. Texas, Florida, Illinois, Pennsylvania and California were the top ranking states for roadway worker deaths. The top cause (69 percent) were pedestrian workers killed by motor vehicles.
In 2013, 63 percent of occupational fatalities in work zones were to the following occupations: construction laborers, highway maintenance workers, heavy and tractor trailer truck drivers, first-line supervisors of construction an extraction workers and construction equipment operators.
Private sector construction – primarily heavy/civil engineering construction and specialty trades contractors – accounted for 60 percent of worker fatal injuries in work zones.
Service producing industries in the private sector, such as the transportation and warehousing industry and the administrative and support services industry, accounted for an additional 27 percent of worker deaths in work zones. Ten percent of workers fatally injured in work zones were in the government sector.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, worker deaths in America are down. In 1970, there were on average 38 worker deaths a day and in 2012, the figure was down to 12 deaths a day. OSHA reports workplace fatalities have been reduced by more than 65 percent and occupational injury and illness rates have declined by 67 percent. At the same time, U.S. employment has almost doubled.