Chapel Hill Passes Ordinance Banning Cellphones While Driving
March 29th, 2012
March 29, 2012
While the majority of Chapel Hill residents and town council members were in favor of a ban on cellphone use while driving, other residents have concerns that the new law could hinder their businesses. A recent WRAL News article told the stories of two business owners who claim to rely on their phones while driving.
One man who owns a cleaning service that handles fire and water damage says his business deals with emergency situations, and missing a phone call could cost him thousands of dollars in potential revenue if he doesn’t respond quickly enough. An owner of a delivery service also stated that her clients rely on a phone call when the driver is on the way.
Most would agree that these problems are minimal considering the measure’s potential to save lives. Statistics show that drivers who use a handheld device are more than four times as likely to be involved in an accident. That equated to approximately 57,984 accidents caused by distracted driving in North Carolina over a four year time period. Of the motorists involved in those accidents, 13,000 were injured and 119 died.
While the North Carolina Auto Accident Attorneys with HensonFuerst Injury Lawyers feel the ban will save lives, we’re curious as to what your opinion on the new law is and how you think it will affect you. Tell us what you think by posting to our Facebook page.
Chapel Hill Votes to Ban Talking on Cell Phones
March 28th, 2012
This is an absolute first: The town of Chapel Hill is the first in the nation to pass a law making it illegal to talk on a cell phone while driving—and that includes hands-free phones.
According to an article in the News & Observer, the city council voted 5-4 to pass the ban. The deciding vote was cast by Ed Harrison, an avid cyclist who has seen erratic driving by cell phone users. When asked about the most dangerous driving habit, Harrison said:
“[It] is not by people who are eating things or combing their hair or putting on lipstick. It’s by people who are talking on a cell phone and not seeing me.”
The new law, which will go into effect on June 1, applies to all streets in the town of Chapel Hill, including state-owned roads. Emergency calls will be permitted.
The city of Evanston, Illinois, has banned hand-held cell phones, and is considering adding hands-free phones to the ban. Still, in the two years since Evanston’s ban became law, accidents have decreased 17.6%.
That’s a pretty persuasive number!
To read the full article in the News & Observer, click here: Chapel Hill Council Bans Cell-Phone Use
Celexa Can Cause Heart Abnormalities
March 28th, 2012
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued safety information about popular antidepressant medication Celexa (generic name: citalopram hydrobromide).
Celexa is in the class of antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which make more of the brain chemical serotonin available to brain cells. In August 2011, the FDA issued a Drug Safety Communication stating that citalopram should no longer be used at doses greater than 40 mg per day because it could cause potentially dangerous abnormalities in the electrical activity of the heart.
In this current release, the FDA recommends:
Citalopram is not recommended for use at doses greater than 40 mg per day because such doses cause too large an effect on the QT interval (one of the electrical measures of heart activity) and confer no additional benefit.
Citalopram is not recommended for use in patients with congenital long QT syndrome, bradycardia (abnormally slow heart rate), hypokalemia (low levels of potassium in the blood), or hypomagnesemia (low levels of magnesium in the blood), recent acute myocardial infarction (heart attack), or uncompensated heart failure.
Citalopram use is also not recommended in patients who are taking other drugs that prolong the QT interval.
The maximum recommended dose of citalopram is 20 mg per day for patients with hepatic (liver) impairment, patients who are older than 60 years of age, patients who are CYP 2C19 poor metabolizers, or patients who are taking concomitant cimetidine (Tagamet) or another CYP2C19 inhibitor, because these factors lead to increased blood levels of citalopram, increasing the risk of QT interval prolongation and Torsade de Pointes.
If you are currently taking more than 40 mg per day of Celexa or the generic version of the drug (citalopram), talk with your doctor about whether this FDA warning pertains to you, especially if you have heart problems. Do not stop taking the drug without advice from your physician—going cold-turkey from Celexa and other SSRIs can cause serious health problems. A doctor will know how to step you down from the drug safely.
NC Baptist Hospitals Refuse Tax Payments For MedCost Settlement
March 22nd, 2012
March 22, 2012
A U.S. District Court judge ruled in favor of roughly 15,000 employees of North Carolina’s Baptist Hospitals for a class action lawsuit alleging that their insurance provider required more fees for their coverage than other corporate clients were required to pay. The judge awarded the group a settlement of $5.38 million to be paid no later than April 24.
According to The Winston-Salem Journal, NC Baptist Hospitals is attempting to lower the total amount they must pay out by claiming they should not have to pay taxes on the settlement, which could delay when recipients receive their money. Lawyers for the group filed paperwork with the courts Friday that say it’s not required to pay any amounts beyond those listed in the settlement for the MedCost Health plan.
After other minor expenses were deducted, lawyers say that approximately $1.31 million dollars should be taken off the final payout, lowering that number to $4.07 million. Baptist argues that current and ex-employees who are receiving the settlement should cover those federal tax expenses and other costs.
Counsel for those filing the class action lawsuit have until tomorrow to respond to Baptist’s filing.
The North Carolina Business Dispute Attorneys with HensonFuerst Injury Lawyers say that insurance companies are required by law to offer fair, ethical, and transparent coverage to their policyholders. Failing to offer coverage in this manner could be considered unfair and negligent on the part of the insurance company.
Generic vs Brand Name Drugs: Another Consideration
March 22nd, 2012
If you experience a serious injury as the result of a drug, you can only sue the pharmaceutical company if you took the brand name drug. If you took a generic version, the courts say no one is responsible for your injury. Did you know that? It was shocking news to me.
An article in The New York Times highlighted the differences in how patients can be affected by generic versus name brand drugs. There are two women–Debbie and Diana–in very similar circumstances: Both were treated in a medical setting…both received an injection of the anti-nausea drug promethazine…both had side effects that caused gangrene…and both had a hand amputated. Horrifying outcomes, which could have been prevented. In fact, the drug warns of this possible injury on the label—a label neither woman could see because they were treated by injection. Both women sued the manufacturer for failing to warn about the risks of the injection.
That’s where the similarities stop. But the differences are what make this story so tragic. Debbie had received the generic version of the injected drug; Diana received the brand name version, Phenergan. Diana won a $6.8 million judgment against the drug maker, Wyeth. Debbie’s case was thrown out of court simply because she received a generic drug.
The Supreme Court said that companies that make generic drugs aren’t liable for these kinds of injuries because the companies don’t have control over what was printed on the labels, and therefore cannot be sued by patients for the risks. As stated in The New York Times:
Now, what once seemed like a trivial detail — whether to take a generic or brand-name drug — has become the deciding factor in whether a patient can seek legal recourse from a drug company….
“Your pharmacists aren’t telling you, hey, when we fill this with your generic, you are giving up all of your legal remedies,” said Michael Johnson, a lawyer who represented Gladys Mensing, one of the patients who sued generic drug companies in last year’s Supreme Court case, Pliva v. Mensing. “You have a disparate impact between one class of people and another.”
Some organizations, including the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen, are petitioning the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to give generic manufacturers greater control over their labels.
But what can the average person do? Really, not much. In an emergency situation, you may not be in a mindset to understand or even consent to taking specific drugs. And there are many times when an insurance company may only approve a generic drug, which means that consumers don’t have a real choice about which version of a drug they take. We always recommend that people become educated consumers, but that can be difficult—if not impossible—to do in the pharmaceutical world.
Still, this issue is important to keep in mind. Ask questions when you can…ask for brand name drugs when you can.
At HensonFuerst, we represent people who have been injured by drugs. To learn more about drug injury, visit our dedicated webpage at http://www.lawmed.com/DrugInjury/.
To read the full article in The New York Times, click here: Generic Drugs Proving Resistant to Damage Suits
"It Couldn't Happen to Me"–Heat Deaths in Children
March 21st, 2012
SafeKids USA is always slightly ahead of the curve–in a good way. They want to remind everyone that even though spring has just begun, the weather here in North Carolina has already topped 70 degrees. But with these glorious days comes the opportunity for tragic news: reports of children left unattended in a vehicle, dying of hyperthermia, also known as heat stroke.
Believe it or not, heat stroke can happen in February with temperatures as low as 57 degrees. But starting in March, when the sun gets stronger, the numbers begin to climb, with peak incidents occuring during the summer months. These tragedies affect mostly infants and toddlers, but can happen to children of all ages.
Since 1998, over 520 children have died as a result of hyperthermia, with an average of 38 per year. Sadly, about half of the children are forgotten when the driver arrives at a destination. That driver becomes distracted and forgets he or she has a child in the back seat and continues their routine. The rest were either playing in an unattended car and were unable to get out, or were intentionally left by an adult for “just a minute.”
To learn more about the dangers of leaving a child alone in a car, watch our video:
Preventing Hot Car Heat Injuries in Children
Massage Proved to Help Control Pain and Improve Healing
March 19th, 2012
For most people, massage is a guilty pleasure to be enjoyed only rarely. But athletes know better…they understand that receiving a massage after a strenuous workout or game can help their bodies recover more quickly. Now, science has proved the health-promoting benefits of massage.
According to an article in ScienceDaily, there’s no reason to feel guilty about treating yourself to a massage. Yes, massage feels good, but at the cellular level there’s real medicine going on. Massage reduces inflammation, and promotes the growth of energy-producing structures called mitochondria. The reduction of inflammation has similar effects as anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen.
“There’s general agreement that massage feels good, now we have a scientific basis for the experience,” said Simon Melov [scientist from the Buck Institute for Research on Aging, and McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario].
The study, originally published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, had young men exercise to exhaustion on a stationary bicycle, a level that would cause exercise-induced muscle damage. Afterward, one of their legs was randomly chosen to be massaged. Biopsies were taken from the thighs of both legs of the men at three times: Before the exercise; 10 minutes after the massage; and 2.5 hours later. The massaged leg showed chemical changes that indicated anti-inflammatory actions. According to lead author Mark Tarnopolsky, M.D., Ph.D.:
“The potential benefits of massage could be useful to a broad spectrum of individuals including the elderly, those suffering from musculoskeletal injuries and patients with chronic inflammatory disease,” said Tarnopolsky. “This study provides evidence that manipulative therapies, such as massage, may be justifiable in medical practice.”
Straight from a doctor’s mouth…that’s good enough for me. I guess the next step is to hope that massage is someday covered by health insurance.
To read the full story on ScienceDaily, click here: Massage Reduces Inflammation
Research Reveals Details About Stair-Related Injuries in Young Children
March 16th, 2012
A new article in the journal Pediatrics, in a 10-year period, about 932,000 children under the age of 5 were taken to hospitals for injuries they sustained on a staircase, usually at home. According to an article in The New York Times:
“What that tells us is that we have much more that we need to do to make the home environment safer for children,” said Dr. Gary A. Smith, lead author of the study and director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. “Children under 5 spend most of their time in the home, and even the best parent in the world can’t watch their child 100 percent of the time. It just simply isn’t possible.”
These types of falls are particularly difficult to prevent because staircases aren’t designed with child safety as a goal. In about two-thirds of homes, wall-mounted stair gates aren’t possible to install, and one-third of homes can’t accommodate a pressurized gate at the bottom of the staircase. Contrary to what many people might think, the risks to children are even higher if they are being carried down the stairs by an adult. According to the article in The New York Times, 25% of stair-injured children age 12 months or younger were being carried at the time of the injury.
“I knew that this was something that occurred, but I had no idea that it was that common,” Dr. Smith said.
The injuries are potentially serious—more than 75% of the injuries occurred to the head and neck. What can be done? According to Dr. Smith, we should start by taking a closer look at our staircases. Some suggestions:
- Make sure you have a safe bannister that you can grip. Many bannisters are decorative, but too large. If you can’t wrap your fingers and thumb all the way around, consider replacing it with a more functional model.
- Don’t rely on a pressure-mounted gate at the top of a staircase—they loosen over time and are not as secure. If possible, choose wall-mounted gates instead.
- If you carry a child down the stairs, your balance will be thrown off, making it more likely that you will take a tumble, baby and all. Hold the bannister, and clear stairs of potential trip hazards.
- Minimize stair use while carrying children. Place them in a safe place instead of carrying them up and down the stairs.
- If you are carrying a child, don’t carry anything else—keep your spare hand on the bannister.
- Don’t allow children to play on or around stairs.
To read the full article in The New York Times, click here: Stairs at home remain a childhood hazard
To read the full article in the journal Pediatrics, click here: Stair-related injuries to young children
Concussion Information for Home or On the Go
March 15th, 2012
There are two new and wonderful resources about concussion. You know we write a lot about mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI), and it takes a lot to impress us, but these resources are truly special: One is a physician-developed smart phone app designed to help coaches, parents, and athletes recognize and assess concussion; the other is a CDC info pamphlet about recognizing and treating concussion in children, including strategies for addressing concussion symptoms at school.
There’s an App for Concussion, Too!
When they say “There’s an App for That,” they’re not kidding…and that’s a good thing.
Concussion Recognition & Response gives real-time advice about recognizing and treating concussion. Menu items include “NEW INCIDENT,” which walks you through a series of assessment screens, including evaluative questions, such as “Was there likely a blow to the head or body, jerking the head?”, and did you observe vomiting, balance problems, or other specific (and listed) signs of concussion?
The app also provides a list of criteria to help you decide whether to treat a head injury as an emergency and call 911, questions to ask the child who experienced the head injury, and Frequently Asked Questions. Finally, the app tells you whether a concussion is likely, what led to that assessment, and what you should do about it. (Of course, there is a disclaimer at the first page of the app which states: This application is not intended to replace seeking help from a trained medical professional. If the youth has lost consciousness, even briefly, call 911 immediately. That makes sense—no app should ever replace common sense or rational concern when it comes to a child’s health.)
Should you need to seek medical attention for the child, the app provides a summary of all the information you input to share with a doctor…even by email.
“Concussion Recognition & Response” (CRR) is available on iTunes and Android Market. It works on smart phones, iPods, and tablets (such as the iPad). It was developed by two experts with ties to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-CH), Jason Mihalik, Ph.D., an assistant professor of Exercise and Sports Science in UNC’s College of Arts and Sciences, and Gerard Gioia, Ph.D. (UNC ’84) of the George Washington University School of Medicine. This new app is so impressive that it has already been nominated for an Appy Award–and it is one of three finalists in the medical category. The app is priced at $3.99 for a limited time, and a portion of the proceeds of the sale go to support concussion research at the Children’s National Medical Center, and the Matthew A. Gfeller Sport-Related Traumatic Brain Injury Research Center.
According to developer Dr. Mihalik:
“We see as many as 60 percent of concussions go unreported or undiagnosed,” Mihalik said. “This app will really help to provide a systematic diagnostic approach to that injury, and we’re hopeful that it will capture more diagnoses of concussions so that kids can be managed properly.”
And despite the focus on sports, don’t think that the benefits of this app are only for young athletes. According to a press release by UNC:
“This is not just an application for kids that play sports,” said Karen Earp, as her 9 year-old daughter climbed on playground equipment behind her. “This is an application for anybody and everybody to use whether you play sports, whether you play on a playground, ride your bike or are just outside having fun.”
For more information about the CRR App, click here: Concussion App publisher. (You can find links to the Android Market and iTunes purchase pages here, too.) It is easy to get confused by the offerings on iTunes–there are at least four other concussion-related apps, but this is the best app of this type we have seen..by far. The full name is Concussion Recognition & Response: Coach & Parent Version. And the icon looks like this:
icon for CRR app
Information from the CDC to Read at Home
One of the biggest changes resulting from recent research is how young victims of concussion are treated at home and at school. Questions many parents have are:
- When can my child start playing sports again?
- What can I do to ease his or her symptoms?
- What can I expect in terms of emotional or behavioral changes, or ability to concentrate and do schoolwork?
- How can we deal with those changes?
- How long should symptoms last…and what should I do if they don’t seem to get better?
- How can I get the school involved in my child’s concussion treatment?
- What experts can we contact if the problem seems not to get better?
These questions are all answered in a fabulous new PDF document from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) titled Heads up to Schools: Know Your Concussion ABCs. Even though it is called “a fact sheet for school professionals,” parents will find it a valuable tool, as well.
You can download a free copy of this pamphlet here: http://www.cdc.gov/concussion/pdf/TBI_Returning_to_School-a.pdf
Fewer Teens In North Carolina Participating In Driver’s Education
March 15th, 2012
March 15, 2012
While North Carolina’s graduated licensing program has been successful in reducing the number of motor vehicle accidents teenagers are involved in, it also has been successful in reducing the number of teens who get the driving education and experience they need.
Research from the Department of Transportation shows that in 2010, 28 percent of 16 year olds had driver licenses compared with 44 percent in 1980. The number of older drivers has also reduced from 1980 to 2010:
- 17 year olds went from 66 percent to 45 percent
- 18 year olds from 75 percent to 61 percent
- 19 year olds from 80 percent to 70 percent
The number of accidents among drivers ages 18-25 has remained the same.
A new rule being adopted by North Carolina high schools requiring teens to pay up to a $45 fee to take a driver’s education course is further reducing the number of teens seeking licenses. WRAL News reports that some schools have seen more than a 20 percent reduction in driver’s education class size, forcing some schools to cut the number of classes offered as well.
Lawmakers have recognized the problem and are looking at alternative funding sources, such as a $5 surcharge on license plates for motor vehicles in the state.
The North Carolina Car Accident Lawyers at HensonFuerst Injury Lawyers encourage all new drivers to participate in a licensed and certified driver’s education course before hitting the road.