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Northern Virginia Personal Injury, Business, Family Law, Consumer and Estate Blog

Takata airbags continue to generate bad news

Airbag inflators manufactured by Takata Corporation have been in the news for many months, mostly because the company did not act fast enough to recall the defective devices. More than twenty deaths have been caused by the inflators, including at least one in Virginia, and the accidents have created one of the largest products liability cases in U.S. history. Now, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is chastising Mazda and Ford Motor Company for not proceeding with sufficient speed to recall vehicles containing the dangerous inflators.

The NHTSA has issued a press release in which it reiterated its "do not drive" warning for the 2006 Ford Ranger and the 2006 Mazda Series-B trucks. According to the NHTSA, the vehicles must be recalled and repaired immediately. Numbers released by Ford and Mazda state that 49.2 percent of the 33,320 defective Ford Rangers and 58 percent of the Mazda trucks have been recalled and repaired. Both companies have authorized their dealers to tow the vehicles to their shops and make the necessary repairs without charging the vehicles' owners.

Speeding motorcycles cause collision and raise many questions

Automobile accidents usually occur in a few seconds. Survivors of the accident usually have little or no recollection of exactly what happened. Nevertheless, many people want answers to many questions. Who was at fault? Could the accident have been prevented? Did more than one person contribute to the accident? A recent car accident in Virginia Beach involving two speeding motorcycles and a minivan shows the importance of obtaining answers to these questions.

According to witnesses, two motorcycles were traveling west at high speeds on I-264 when one of the bikes crashed into the rear of a Honda Odyssey. The rider of the bike then lost control and hit a temporary concrete retaining wall. Accounts vary at this point, but it appears that the bike that hit the retaining wall then struck the other bike. Both riders were thrown from their bikes and taken to hospitals with life-threatening injuries. One of the riders succumbed to his injuries at the hospital. The people in the Honda suffered minor, non-life-threatening injuries.

Takata airbags are still endangering drivers despite settlement

The biggest automotive product recall has mostly been settled, but the product - the Takata airbag inflater - still poses a threat to more than 60,000 drivers in Virginia and elsewhere in the United States. Why has this products liability case persisted?

The product in question is a device used to inflate air bags. Takata made an inflater that tended to deteriorate over time if it was used or stored in high humidity and widely varying temperatures. Even a mild impact could cause the air bag to inflate, and if a defective inflater was involved, the inflater might explode, spraying the passenger compartment with sharp-edged pieces of metal. More than twenty fatalities have been reported, and hundreds more have suffered permanent injuries. Millions of cars with the defective inflaters have been recalled, but many older models are still being driven, despite extensive recall efforts.

Rear-end collision in Fairfax kills one

The benefit of using seat belts in an automobile has been debated for many years. A recent car accident in Fairfax County appears to have provided a decisive vote in favor of seat belts.

The accident occurred shortly before 4:00 a.m. in the west bound lanes of I-66 near Fairfax. A 2012 Honda Civic was traveling west on I-66 when it was hit in the rear end by a Hyundai Elantra. The driver of the Honda died at the scene. Police investigators said that the dead woman had not been wearing her seat belt. The driver of the Elantra was wearing her seat belt and was not injured. The accident backed up traffic on I-66 for more than four miles, according to police.

Sleepy driver kills veterinarian, faces manslaughter charge

Traffic accidents that result in death or serious bodily injury often involve both the civil and criminal legal system. A recent car accident on Route 50 near Middleburg, Virginia may result in a civil claim for damages and criminal prosecution of the driver believed to have caused the accident.

The victim in the accident, a well-known veterinarian, who practiced in The Plains, Virginia, was traveling home alone. A witness told police that he spotted the vehicle driven by the alleged defendant in his rear-view mirror. The witness said that the defendant appeared to be driving "erratically" as he would approach the witness' vehicle and then reduce speed and drop back. The witness said that he reduced speed several times in the hope that the erratic driver would stay ahead of him. Instead, the driver crossed the center line several times before he struck the victim's car. The witness described the head-on collision as a bomb exploding.

Car wash worker dies in chain reaction accident

Sorting out liability in a multi-party accident can often be a critical but difficult task, especially if the mishap involves an employer and employee. The recent death of a worker in a freak multi-car accident at a Northern Virginia car wash shows how complex this analysis can be.

A male employee at the car wash was attempting to move an SUV away from the rear entrance after it had been washed. The SUV then collided with a pickup truck, which then struck a sedan. The sedan struck a female worker and killed her. The exact cause of the chain reaction is unknown at the moment, but depending upon other facts, it may not be relevant.

Brain injury and stroke give ex-nurse an Irish accent

Brain injuries can manifest themselves in strange and unexpected ways. A former nurse who resides in Fairfax, is recovering from a traumatic brain injury suffered in an auto accident. She is struggling with the usual consequences of damage to the brain, but she also has another condition called Foreign Accent Syndrome. She now speaks with an Irish accent even though she has never visited Ireland.

The accident occurred in 2010, when she was rear-ended by a driver who had been texting and did not see her car. She suffered a traumatic brain injury, a stroke and a spinal cord injury. The nurse recalled that when she awoke from the anesthesia after surgery, she spoke with what she called a Jamaican accent. (Foreign Accent Syndrome typically emerges while the person is under anesthesia.) As time passed, the accent became more Irish and less Jamaican. According to a cognitive rehabilitation specialist with the Brain Injury Services in Springfield, Virginia, the accident causes a mild apraxia, in which the brain no longer sends proper signals to the patient's muscles.

Jury returns $37 million verdict against tire manufacturer

Cars and trucks have many parts whose failure can have catastrophic consequences. One such part is a tire. The tire must provide traction and shock absorption and must be durable enough to withstand thousands of hours of driving. An alleged tire failure on a cement mixer truck has led to a Virginia jury returning a verdict of $37 million against the tire's manufacturer. A manufacturing defect caused the tire to collapse, and a severe truck accident was the result.

The plaintiff in the case was driving a large cement truck on Iron Bridge Road in Richmond when the left front tire lost its tread and outer steel belt. The collapse of the tire caused the truck to swerve off the road, hit an embankment and roll over. The driver suffered a spinal cord injury that has paralyzed him from the waist down.

Inside a car accident investigation

Many newspaper articles about traffic accidents in Fairfax County and elsewhere end with the statement "The cause of the accident is still being investigated." Accident investigations serve many purposes, from providing evidence in criminal cases to helping crash victims recover damages. Car accident investigations are often referred to as "accident reconstruction." What, exactly, can be reconstructed after two vehicles collide and cause significant damage to each other?

Accident investigators are usually police officers or civilians with special training in the use of science to decipher the evidence at an accident scene. Investigators begin by blocking the road and then collecting as much physical evidence as they can. Physical evidence comprises the cars that were involved, skid marks, pieces that have broken away from the involved vehicles, location and physical condition of victims, paint chips, damaged traffic controls and fences and videos and photographs collected by the investigators. Many modern cars contain trip recorders - the so-called "black box" - that can provide much evidence on the vehicle's speed and whether brakes were used. A vital type of evidence is the witness, or victim, interview.

Fairfax family struggles with daughter's brain injuries

A life-altering brain injury can be inflicted by events that last only seconds, but the consequences often stretch into the indeterminate future. A Fairfax County family is learning these lessons day by day as their 12-year-old daughter struggles to recover from brain injuries that she suffered in a violent accident that was the end result of a high-speed police chase.

The mother was driving her four children and a friend home from a go-karting expedition. She stopped her minivan at a stop light and then began to move slowly through the intersection. Without warning, the minivan was struck by a pick-up truck driven by a man who had allegedly stolen it. The mother lost consciousness for a few seconds. When she awakened, she saw blood and glass everywhere. Her younger children had suffered a number of cuts and were bleeding profusely. Then she became aware that her 13-year-old daughter was no longer in the van. She was lying in the street a few yards away. She had suffered numerous facial cuts, a fractured skull and, as the parents were soon to learn, a severe brain injury.

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