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 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.


GM Recalls Will Not Hurt Its Profitability

The Detroit Free Press (1/14, Gardner, 974K) reports that GM CEO Mary Barra told analysts said that the company expects higher profitability in every region during 2015. The article reports that GM CFO Chuck Stevens said that while the company may announce more recalls over the next few years, “the cost per recall should fall, partly because the company can respond faster.” The Free Press reports that the company will spend between $400 million and $600 million on the compensation fund related to the faulty ignition switches, but the exact figures will not be released until later in the year.
Bloomberg (1/15, 2.95M) reports that Barra spoke on the changes the company made to its recall process, saying that the faulty ignition switch defect was ignored because “people had a different view of stalling,” treating it as a “customer satisfaction issue” instead of a safety issue. She noted, “a series of mistakes were made.”



Congress rolled back safety rules aimed at ensuring truck drivers get enough rest. U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and other safety advocates strongly opposed the plan.

The bill that passed suspended rules the Transportation Department implemented last year, which required drivers, after working 70 hours over eight days, to rest for 34 hours before beginning another work week. The rules had also required that the rest period include two consecutive nights from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. The amendment suspends these rules until Oct. 1, 2015.

My firm handles personal injury cases involving large trucks. Trucker fatigue is a tremendous safety problem all across the U.S. This issue gained a lot of attention when the Wal-Mart Store’s tractor-trailer hit a limousine carrying comedian Tracy Morgan. The trucker in that incident had been awake for at least 24 hours, according to a police report. He was nearing the end of a 14-hour work shift. Secretary Foxx had tried to convince Congress to do the right thing by sending a letter to senior members of the Senate and House appropriations committees who were considering the year-end spending plan. The letter said:

The evidence clearly shows that truck drivers are better rested and more alert after two nights of sleep than one night, and that unending 80-hour work weeks lead to driver fatigue and compromise highway safety.

Secretary Foxx was not successful in trying to convince Congress to reject language in the Amendment that suspends regulations that require two overnight rest periods between trucker work weeks. The regulations also curtail practices that allowed up to 82 hours of work a week. The following is an examination of what the Senate amendment has done:

Rising Rate

The provision to delay elements of the agency’s rule was in a Senate version of the annual spending bill for transportation programs and was then added to the year-end omnibus bill being worked out by House and Senate appropriators by the Amendment, sponsored by Senator Collins.

Truck crashes caused 3,912 deaths in 2012, and the fatal-crash rate increased each year from 2009 through 2012, reversing a five-year trend. The hours-of-service regulation was expected to prevent 1,400 truck crashes a year, saving 19 lives and avoiding 560 injuries.

Public Citizen reports that every year, 4,000 people are killed and more than 100,000 are injured in crashes involving trucks. Truck crashes cost the American people and our economy S99 billion annually. Nearly half of all truck drivers admitted to falling asleep behind the wheel at least once in the previous year, according to a 2006 study.

Long Weeks

The trucking rules are needed because the industry has been abusing previous regulations to force truckers to drive as much as 82 hours a week. My long-time friend Joan Claybrook, president emeritus of Public Citizen, the Washington-based watchdog group, had this to say:

No one can drive 82 hours in a seven or eight-day period and not be tired. Truckers don’t get enough rest. These provisions ensure they get a little more.

Nighttime Rest

Senator Collins’ provision suspends a mandatory second nighttime rest period while the agency studies whether the regulation has forced more drivers to operate during daytime hours, when there is more traffic congestion and crash risk. It doesn’t take a study to find out that which common sense and available data from highway crashes already tell us and that is a fatigued truck driver is a safety hazard.

Sadly, Congress yielded to the intense pressure from the trucking industry instead of doing the right thing and protecting folks on our highways. Increasing safety on our highways should be a top priority in Congress. It makes absolutely no sense from a safety perspective to do something that would put innocent folks on our highway at risk of death or serious injury. But that’s exactly what members of the House and Senate have done.



The number of people who were killed in large-truck crashes increased for the fourth straight year, bucking a trend of overall improvement in U.S. highway safety. Fatalities rose to 3,964 people in 2013, which includes truckers, pedestrians and the occupants of vehicles that collided with the big rigs, the U.S. Transportation Department stated last month in its annual traffic-injury report That’s up 0.5 percent from 2012, even though highway deaths involving all types of vehicles fell 3.1 percent to 32,719.

Regulators said new federal standards requiring stability-control technology to prevent rollovers, and future rules that may require stronger underride guards on the backs of semi-trailer can help reverse the trend. David Friedman, the Deputy Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, told the media:

We do know tired truckers are a risk on our roads. Any effort to reduce the number of people who are tired or drowsy on the road can have an impact.

Interestingly, the report was issued just a week after Congress suspended part of it set of regulations intended to ensure truckers get adequate rest. Lawmakers targeted a portion of the rule closing a loophole that kept some drivers from working 82 hours over eight days. That provision won’t be enforced for at least a year as regulators conduct research to see if it had an unintended effect of forcing more trucks onto the road during rush hours. Federal regulators will monitor whether the new policy affects the fatality count. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx stated:

The hours-of service rule is a critically important rule. Critical pieces of it have now been changed.

While the overall state of highway safety may be improving, and hopefully it is, there are far too many deaths and serious injuries occurring each month. Besides the decline in all kinds of traffic deaths in 2013, the year tied an all-time record for the lowest fatality rate-1.1 people were killed for every 100 million vehicle-miles traveled.


More than 20% of Fatal Crashes Involve Tired Drivers

Truck driver fatigue is a major problem. Research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety (AAA) shows that more than one in five fatal crashes involve driver fatigue. These results seem to confirm what safety experts have long suspected: the prevalence of drowsy driving is much greater than official statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) currently indicate.

AAA has urged drivers to recognize warning signs of driver fatigue and take action to avoid tragedy. President and CEO of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, Peter Kissinger. gave this timely warning:

This new research further confirms that drowsy driving is a serious traffic safety problem. Unfortunately, drivers often underestimate this risk and overestimate their ability to combat drowsiness behind the wheel.

The report also found that tired driving crashes, a mainstay in recent headlines, are not without consequence. One third of crashes involving a drowsy driver result in injuries and more than 6,000 fatigue-related crashes each year result in at least one death.

Previous research from the AAA Foundation showed that young adult drivers, ages 19-24, are the most likely to admit to driving while drowsy, with 33 percent reporting doing so in the last month. By contrast, the oldest drivers (ages 75+) and the youngest (ages 16-18) were the least likely to report the same offense. Kissinger also said:

Despite the fact that 95 percent of Americans deem it ‘unacceptable’ to drive when they are so tired that they have a hard time keeping their eyes open, more than 28 percent admit to doing so in the last month. Like other impairments. driving while drowsy is not without risk. AAA urges drivers to understand the warning signs of drowsy driving. These warning signs are:

• The inability to recall the last few miles traveled;
• Having disconnected or wandering thoughts;
• Having difficulty focusing or keeping your eyes open;
• Feeling as though your head is very heavy;
• Drifting out of your driving lane, perhaps driving on the rumble strips;
• Yawning repeatedly;
• Accidentally tailgating other vehicles; and
• Missing traffic signs.

When faced with fatigue, AAA recommends that drivers find a safe place to pull over if experiencing any of the drowsy driving symptoms. To remain alert and be safer behind the wheel, AAA suggests:

• Get plenty of sleep (at least seven hours) especially the night before a long drive;
• Drive at times when you are normally awake;
• Schedule a break every two hours or ever) 100 miles;
• Avoid heavy foods;
• Travel with an alert passenger and take turns driving;
• Avoid medications that cause drowsiness or other impairment; and
• Consult with a sleep specialist or other medical professional if you have trouble getting enough rest or are chronically fatigued.

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety’s Prevalence of Motor Vehicle Crashes Involving Drowsy Drivers report is based on the analysis of a representative sample of 14,268 crashes that occurred in years 2009-2013 in which at least one vehicle was towed from the scene. AAA highlighted the risks of drowsy driving in support of the National Sleep Foundation’s Drowsy Driving Prevention Week®, which was November 2-9. For more information about fatigued driving, visit the National Sleep Foundation’s drowsy driving website at www.DrowsyDriving.org.

Established by AAA in 1947, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety is a 501(c) (3) not-for¬profit, publicly-supported charitable educational and research organization. Dedicated to saving lives and reducing injuries on our roads, the Foundation’s mission is to prevent crashes and save lives through research and education about traffic safety. The Foundation has funded over 200 research projects designed to discover the causes of traffic crashes, prevent them, and minimize injuries when they do occur. Visit www.aaafoundation.org for more information on this and other research.

As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 54 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. AAA clubs can be visited on the Internet at AAA.com.