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

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.

Bus carrying college sports team rolls over, driver arrested

Buses and semi-trailer trucks are common sights on Virginia's roads and highways. Both are large vehicles that travel at high speeds. Thus, the competence of the drivers is vital to the safety of passengers and other vehicles. A recent bus and truck accident in Pulaski County involving a college basketball team provides a reminder of how a few moments of inattention by a bus or truck driver can have devastating consequences.

The West Georgia Technical College Golden Knights women's basketball team was on its way to compete in a tournament in Rockville, Maryland when the driver's loss of attention resulted in an accident that was only a few inches away from becoming a true catastrophe. According to police, the bus drifted into the right lane, side-swiping a semi-trailer rig. The bus then rebounded and crossed the road into the left shoulder. The driver over-corrected and ran off the road a second time. The bus struck an embankment and overturned. A picture of the accident shows the bus upside down, suspended over a ditch with its wheels in the air. All 13 passengers were taken to a nearby hospital and treated for non-life threatening injuries and released. The bus driver was arrested by the Virginia State Patrol and charged with driving while under the influence of drugs and possession of marijuana. The State Patrol said that driver fatigue may also have been a causative factor.

Takata reaches airbag settlement with states, including Virginia

Airbags have become a standard safety feature on modern automobiles, but one airbag manufacturer, Takata, made air bags that increased the hazards of a collision. After being sued by 44 states, including Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia, Takata has agreed to pay $650 million to these states in settlement of their product liability claims.

Takata used ammonium nitrate to inflate the airbags in the event of a collision. Unfortunately, ammonium nitrate deteriorates over several years if it is exposed to high humidity. The deterioration causes the ammonium to burn too fast, and instead of inflating an airbag, the cylinder holding the ammonium nitrate shatters and sprays metal fragments throughout the passenger compartment. Several deaths and many injuries have been attributed to the defect.

Virginia Tech begins bicycle helmet safety study

Most bicycle riders in our state prefer to wear a helmet when they go riding. The obvious purpose for using a helmet is to prevent head and brain injuries in the event of an accident. Unfortunately, anyone choosing a helmet for safety reasons may be defeated by the overwhelming number of different models currently being sold. For this reason, researchers at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, more familiarly known as Virginia Tech, is beginning an investigation into the safety features of different models of bike helmets.

The impetus for the study is revealed by the results of an search for "bicycle helmet." The result yields 10,000 choices at prices ranging from $7 to several hundred dollars. The study plans to rate helmets on a scale of one to five, five stars being the safest. The large number of people riding bicycles means that the sport produces more brain injuries (mostly concussions) than football or hockey. The large number of different helmet models means that the researchers will limit themselves to examining only the models that are widely available in stores or on line.

Driver charged in accident that killed VDOT contractor

Virginia drivers often see warning signs, orange pylons, barriers and other devices intended to protect road workers from being struck by passing vehicles. In an ironic twist, a worker hired by the Virginia Department of Transportation to set up such barriers was killed in a car accident by a driver who says she took her eyes off the road.

The workers was an independent contractor hired by VDOT to set up a work zone on southbound I-95 in Prince George County. On Feb. 2, at about 11:15 a.m., the worker installing barriers to close the shoulder of the freeway. He was struck by a southbound car driven by a woman from North Carolina. The woman told police that she momentarily looked down and took her eyes off the road. The worker died from his injuries at the scene.

Box truck hits school bus carrying five students

School buses in Virginia are equipped with several devices intended to warn motorists when the bus is stopping or stopped. These devices include bright flashing red lights and warning signs that project from the side of the bus. The driver of a box truck in King George County appears to have ignored all such devices and smashed into the rear of a school bus carrying five students.

According to witnesses, the bus was fully stopped and unloading a student. All of the bus's safety lights were flashing. The box truck failed to slow down, and it crashed into the rear of the bus. The force of the impact caused the bus to flip on its side. One witness estimated the speed of the truck at approximately 50 miles per hour at the moment of impact. Both drivers were flown by medevac helicopters to nearby hospitals with serious injuries. Two adults who were on the bus and several of the children were taken to local hospitals where they were treated for minor injuries and released. All of the children were soon reunited with their families.

GM begins voluntary investigation of sunroof safety

Many modern automobiles sold in Virginia come equipped with a sliding window in the roof. These popular devices are usually referred to as sun roof, and they are seldom thought of as the source of potential products liability lawsuit. However, Consumer Reports magazine recently completed a study of sunroofs in GM automobiles, and the results were surprising -- not least of all to GM, which has just announced that it is commencing a voluntary internal investigation into the safety of sunroofs.

Consumer Reports (CR) published a study in October 2017 of incidents involving the sudden and unexplained shattering of sunroofs. CR analyzed 900 incidents that comprised 208 models and 35 brands.

Attempt to re-connect trailer leads to driver's death

Attempting to fix a malfunctioning automobile while the car is stopped in the traffic lane of a highway can be very dangerous, even deadly. In a recent car accident involving an attempt to repair a disabled trailer, a Virginia man was killed as he was trying to re-attach a utility trailer to his pickup truck while it was stopped in the northbound traffic lane of Route 460 in Sussex County.

The decedent was towing a trailer behind his Dodge Dakota pickup when the trailer somehow became disconnected from the truck. The driver came to a stop but could not pull off the road without leaving the trailer in the traffic lane. Instead, he opted to attempt to reconnect the trailer while both the truck and the trailer remained in the traffic lane. Unfortunately, another northbound driver crashed into the rear of the trailer.

Driver killed after car ricochets off concrete barrier

One of the most common sights on Virginia's streets is the concrete traffic barrier. These barriers -- called jersey walls due to the location of their invention -- are intended to separate traffic lanes, reduce the force of impacts and prevent vehicles from abruptly changing lanes after hitting the wall. Unfortunately, a jersey wall on a street in Springfield, Virginia, may have partially caused a recent fatal collision.

On January 11, a Manassas resident was driving south on Loisdale Road in a Ford Ranger when his vehicle swerved and hit a jersey wall. The car bounced off the concrete barrier and collided head on with a northbound car in the opposite lane. The driver of the Ranger was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital. The driver of the northbound vehicle was hospitalized with non-life threatening.

The effect of contributory negligence on auto accidents

Many Virginians who are injured in traffic accidents believe that they have an absolute right to recover damages from the party who caused the accident. This belief is based on the concept of "negligence," which allows a person who suffers an injury because someone else was negligent, i.e., failed to use due care. This belief, unfortunately, is incorrect.

A rule of the common law, which governs the rights and obligations of Virginians in the absence of a specific statute or rule, says that anyone whose negligence causes an auto accident or other incident that results in personal injury cannot recover damages from another party, even if the other party is more at fault than the plaintiff. The rule, called contributory negligence, can often can seem arbitrary and unfair.

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