Metzger Wickersham Attorney Ted Knauss Speaks to Widener University Law School Students

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Mar 2014
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This past month, personal injury attorney Ted Knauss was honored with the opportunity to speak at Widener Law School in Harrisburg, PA. He presented on the topic of civil litigation, offering practice advice to law students.

Jessica Smeriglio, a Widener Law student, commented, “It was a nice change of pace to have a local attorney come in and offer practical advice.” Attorney Knauss discussed various aspects of litigation, including the discovery process and tips on interacting with opposing counsel. Students were encouraged to ask questions and participate in the discussion.

Ted Knauss

Ted Knauss

Attorney Knauss has practiced law at the firm of Metzger Wickersham, PC since 1974. He concentrates his practice in plaintiff’s personal injury and workers’ compensation law. Mr. Knauss is Board-certified as a specialist in civil trial advocacy by the National Board of Trial Advocacy, the accrediting agency approved by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. This certification is reserved for attorneys who have demonstrated high standards of competence, experience and integrity in civil trial work. He is also a member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum.

Wilkes-Barre DUI Injuries and Deaths, Target of MADD Campaign

Last year, diners at a Wilkes-Barre breakfast eatery got a grand slam they weren’t expecting when a sport-utility vehicle smashed into the side of the restaurant, seriously injuring several people. The driver of that vehicle was drunk and was subsequently sentenced to jail time for the crash.

beergardenAlthough most drunk driving injuries occur on the road, cases like this reveal no one is safe from impaired drivers. The Wilkes-Barre DUI accident lawyers at Metzger Wickersham believe that aggressively attacking this issue should be a priority for everyone. 

It’s in this spirit that we are highlighting the latest push by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, called the Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving: 2014 Report to the Nation.

MADD isn’t shy in calling out drunk driving for exactly what it is: a type of violent crime. It is the cause of one-third of all traffic deaths, which is important to remember in light of recent statistics showing the number of DUI fatalities have been halved since the 1980s.

The MADD campaign focuses on supporting law enforcement efforts to target drunk drivers, as well as promoting ignition interlock requirements for DUI offenders – even for first-time offenders.

Here in Pennsylvania, the device is required only for those convicted a second or subsequent time for drunk driving. The systems cost an average of $1,000, with the offender expected to foot the bill. Usually, the court will require the offender to use the device for at least one year. However, any violation of the original court order could mean an extension for an additional year.

MADD intends to push legislators in states like Pennsylvania to adopt stricter ignition interlock requirements in 2014.

Another aspect of MADD’s effort involves support of developing technologies that would render all vehicles – not just those equipped with ignition interlock – inoperable if the driver is drunk.

The organization notes that in 2006, there were 38 states that held sobriety checkpoints and one state that required ignition interlock devices for all DUI offenders arrested for operating a vehicle above the 0.08 limit. By 2011, there were still 38 states holding DUI checkpoints. There were also 32 states holding “no refusal weekends,” which involved on-site magistrates to sign warrants to obtain a blood draw for any suspected drunk drivers at a sobriety checkpoint who refused a breathalyzer. Also that year, the number of states requiring ignition interlock devices for first-time offenders jumped to 16.

In 2013, there were the same number of states holding checkpoints and no-refusals, but the number of states that had bolstered their ignition interlock laws had spiked by an additional four.

Also in that seven-year time frame, the idea for driver alcohol-detection systems went from being a concept to being a proposal that is authorized and funded with $5 million annually by Congress.

The federal government has also offered a $20 million annual incentive grant for states to pass tougher ignition interlock laws. Pennsylvania has yet to act on this offer.

Another initiative MADD supports is the passage of greater penalties for those who drive intoxicated with a child passenger.  Pennsylvania is unfortunately quite lax in this regard. For DUI offenders who drive with under-18 passengers, a first-time offense will face a maximum penalty of 100 hours of community service and a minimum $1,000 fine. A two-time offender can receive up to six months in jail and a $2,500 fine. A third-time offender can receive between six months and two years of incarceration.

Considering what a serious threat drunk drivers pose to the people of Wilkes-Barre, other communities throughout PA, and nationwide, we support MADD in their efforts to enact tougher DUI legislation.

The car accident lawyers of Metzger Wickersham have offices in Wilkes-Barre, Pottsville, York, Lancaster, Shippensburg, and Harrisburg, PA. Contact us at 1-800-WIN-WIN-1 (946-9461) or visit www.mwke.com for a free case evaluation.

Metzger Wickersham Sponsors Zumbathon to Benefit Daikon Youth Services

Metzger Wickersham is the food sponsor for a Zumbathon event taking place on March 16, 2014 in Dillsburg, PA. This fun event is being held to benefit Daikon Youth Services, an organization dedicated to providing specialized programs for at-risk youths across Pennsylvania. Daikon Youth Services transforms the lives of teens through a range of community-based treatment, vocational training, counseling, and mentoring services. We are honored to support admirable community programs like this one!

For more information or to register for the event, please visit: http://www.konhaus.com/zumba/

Zumbathon

Pennsylvania Traffic Collisions Rarely “Accidents”

Is it inaccurate to use the word “accident” to describe a car crash or traffic collision in which someone was at fault?

The words that people read and that people use make a difference in how they see the world. The Associated Press, which produces the definitive style guide for journalists, is aware of this and so the AP adjusts its style guide to reflect changing cultural perceptions about current issues in the media.

The AP style guide’s rules and recommendations have a profound impact because most reporters refer to the style guide, and thus news stories are shaped by the words that the AP recommends.

Recently, certain media outlets, have urged the AP to include an official entry in its style guide addressing the language used to describe collisions or car crashes that occur.one-car-key-1149771-mWithin its main style book, the Associated Press does not currently provide guidelines about the appropriate terms to describe a car crash. So, use of the word “accident” to describe car collisions has remained widespread in the media and is considered by most of the general public to be acceptable terminology.

Why does this matter, and why are certain journalists recommending a change? One opinion is that the word accident is “part of a cultural permissiveness toward dangerous driving.” (usa.streetsblog.org)

When the media describes a car crash as an accident, someone reading the story may think that the collision just happened or occurred because of bad luck or chance. Our car crash lawyers in Pennsylvania know that this is not true. In reality, a staggering number of collisions happen because drivers make careless or negligent choices.

Streetsblog Network is not the only one to believe that the word accident may not be the correct terminology to use when reporting on a traffic collision. The New York Police Department no longer uses the word because, as the police chief explained in a released statement: “the term ‘accident’ has sometimes given the inaccurate impression or connotation that there is no fault or liability associated with a specific event.”  The San Francisco PD has also stopped using the word.

Using the word collision or crash, rather than accident depicts a more realistic stance to society about driver accountability; it sends the message that most traffic collisions are preventable, rather than simply incidents of chance.

Interestingly, as personal injury lawyers, we often find ourselves using the phrases “car accident,” “motorcycle accident,” etc., because these terms have become so common-place. Yet, it’s important for us to keep abreast of growing concern about the deeper meaning of this word. Perhaps we will soon see a major shift in the way the media and the public uses the word “accident.”

Metzger Wickersham law firm handles car crash claims for clients throughout Pennsylvania. The firm has offices in Harrisburg, Shippensburg, Wilkes-Barre, Lancaster, Pottsville and York. Contact Metzger Wickersham toll free at 1-800-WIN-WIN-1 (946-9461) or visit us online for a free case evaluation.

50-Car Pileup in PA Shows Importance of Safe Winter Driving

With several winter storms already sweeping the state, Pennsylvanians are urged to remember the importance of safe winter driving when ice and snow creates hazardous road conditions. In early December, a 50-car pileup on the PA turnpike resulted in at least one death, and many other multiple-car accidents have also been reported over the last few months.

birch-trees-on-frosty-morning-1435173-mOur car accident lawyers in York, PA want to stress the fact that winter weather requires all motorists to take extra safety precautions on the roads. While the risk of an accident is greater with snow, sleet, ice and freezing rain, there are steps that you can take to try to reduce the chances of becoming involved in a multi-vehicle pileup during a storm.

Tips to Help Avoid Pileup Accidents

Pileup accidents happen when one or more cars becomes involved in a collision. Other motorists who either cannot see the damaged vehicles or who cannot stop or get out of the way in time can then strike the impaired vehicle or other cars on the road. More and more cars may become involved in the accident, as in the case of the 50-car pileup, and many people could get hurt as the vehicles block the roads and create a hazard.

Pileups are more likely to happen in winter because snow and ice can reduce visibility, making it harder to see when a car in front of you has gotten into an accident or is stopped in your way. Ice on the road compounds the problem because you could skid if you try to slam on the brakes to avoid becoming involved in a collision.

Here are some things you can do avoid the risk of a crash or pileup accident:

  • Check the weather before you go out. If there is a storm advisory alert or winter weather warnings in effect, you might want to postpone your trip, if possible. There is no reason to go out driving in sleet, heavy snow and freezing rain and to take on the risk of this dangerous driving if your errands are ones that can wait.
  • Go slow when the weather is bad. The faster you drive, the more likely it is that you won’t be able to stop in time to avoid becoming involved in a pileup. With heavy snow falling, you may have only seconds to stop from the time you see the obstacles in your path to the time that you hit those obstacles.
  • Try to increase your traction. If you ease up on the accelerator, the brakes and the steering wheel, this can help to give you better traction on wet, snowy and icy roads. No matter what kind of car you are driving, you should avoid fast reactions like slamming on the brakes or turning the wheel sharply, as this is likely to make you lose control.
  • Avoid distractions. Always pay careful attention to your surroundings so you can spot obstacles in your path.

By following these tips, hopefully you can avoid becoming one of the vehicles in a serious pileup accident.

A car accident attorney in York, Wilkes-Barre or Harrisburg, PA can help if you are involved in a crash in Pennsylvania. Contact Metzger Wickersham law firm at 1-800-WIN-WIN-1 (946-9461) or visit us online for a free case evaluation.

Preventing Motorcycle Accidents Remains a Top Priority

A fatal motorcycle accident occurred in Pennsylvania in late October, resulting in five deaths. The accident happened approximately 70 miles to the southwest of Harrisburg when two motorcycle riders collided with an SUV. Four people on the motorcycles were killed and one SUV passenger also lost his life. According to Fox News, a local township supervisor described the crash as the ‘single worst accident with that many fatalities in the township” and indicated that the accident scene was horrific. Grief counselors were provided at the scene of the crash, and the area where the accident occurred was closed for around five hours.

scooter-in-action-585038-mWhile this accident was devastating, it is unfortunately not the only fatal motorcycle crash that is likely to occur in Pennsylvania this winter. GHSA data reveals that 85 motorcycle riders were killed from January to June of 2011, and 112 motorcyclists lost their lives during the first six months of 2012.  There is always a chance that some of these deaths could have been prevented if both motorcyclists and other drivers practiced safe driving habits through the winter and beyond.

Preventing Motorcycle Accidents Requires a Focus on Safety

While many drivers may assume that motorcyclists won’t be out as much in the winter, the data showing hundreds of deaths in 2012 from January to June makes clear that riders are out on the roads even in the winter months. This is especially true when winter weather is good. The high number of motorcycle deaths in 2012, for example, was explained by the GHSA as being partially caused by “unseasonably warm weather in March and April.”

Motorcycle riders are put in danger by bad weather and by drivers who may not expect to see them on the roads during the colder months. The early darkness caused by daylight savings time also contributes to the risks that motorcycle riders face during the winter.

Motorcyclists need to be aware of all of these dangers and do everything possible to stay safe, including checking weather reports before going out for a ride. This may reduce the chances of becoming caught in an expected storm. Our motorcycle accident lawyers in Wilkes-Barre and Harrisburg PA also encourage riders to wear brightly colored or reflective clothing at night time to make it easier for other drivers to see them.

While motorcyclists need to play a primary role in making sure they don’t become crash victims, drivers must also do their part to keep the roads safe. Some important safe driving practices drivers should follow this winter include:

  • Driving at a speed that is safe for current conditions. This may mean slowing down to account for reduced visibility at night or when the weather is bad.
  • Looking carefully for motorcyclists before turning into an intersection or changing lanes. Remember that motorcycle riders may be harder to see than drivers in passenger cars.
  • Remembering that motorcyclists are more affected by poor road conditions than cars and avoiding tailgating or getting too close to riders.

If both motorcyclists and drivers commit to doing everything they can to stay safe, hopefully motorcyle accident injuries and fatalities can be kept to a minimum this year in PA.

A motorcycle accident attorney in Wilkes-Barre or Harrisburg, PA can help if you are involved in a crash. Contact Metzger Wickersham law firm at 1-800-WIN-WIN-1 (946-9461) or visit us online for a free case evaluation.

Medical Malpractice in Pennsylvania and the Importance of a Second Opinion

After being ordered to pay nearly $10 million in damages to a patient wrongly diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease, the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania has had its appeal denied by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. The medical malpractice verdict has reportedly now grown to an estimated $11.6 million, due to interest.

As any malpractice lawyer in Harrisburg recognizes, the plaintiff that was awarded compensation suffered very serious harm as a result of a misdiagnosis. The compensation he received will provide him security in being able to pay his future medical bills and costs, however nothing can reverse the permanent damage he experienced as a result of the doctor’s mistake.

The case is a reminder to physicians of the importance of exercising reasonable care when diagnosing patients. It is also a reminder to patients that getting a second opinion is always advised when diagnosed with a serious medical condition.

A Misdiagnosis Can Have Devastating Results

The medical malpractice victim, Eric Davenport, had sought treatment in 2003 from the director of the ALS Association Center at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.  The physician reviewed MRI films and failed to diagnose spinal cord abnormalities that were suggestive of multi-level spinal cord disease.

Instead of being correctly diagnosed with a progressive spinal cord injury, the patient was incorrectly diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, also called ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease.  The patient was told he had between 18 months and three years to live, since ALS is fatal and incurable.

The patient accepted the diagnosis. However, four years later, his health had not declined in the way that his first physician told him it would. The patient asked for a referral to a different neurologist and had another set of MRI scans done. With the new scans, his spinal cord injury was correctly diagnosed and it became clear that he had never had ALS.

Unfortunately, not only did the patient have years of worry that his life would be cut drastically short by a fatal disease, but his actual spinal cord injury was also not treated during this time.  After the correct diagnosis, the patient received proper medical treatment, including surgery to relieve compression of the spinal cord. Yet, because of the excessive delay in treatment, his paraparesis had become irreversible, and he is now confined to a wheelchair for life.

The large award ordered by the jury included compensation for eight years of economic and non-economic damages experienced since the misdiagnosis in 2003. It also included compensation for 20 years of future damage and loss caused by the permanent paralysis.  The verdict was upheld by the Pennsylvania Superior Court and became final when the Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal. The malpractice insurers for the doctors and hospitals will be obligated to pay the damages, but no amount of money will allow the injured victim to walk again.

While patients have the right to trust that doctors will be reasonably accurate in diagnosing medical conditions, this unfortunate case is a clear example of why it can be so important for patients to seek a second opinion when the stakes are high.

If you believe you or a loved one has been injured by medical malpractice in Pennsylvania, our malpractice lawyers in Harrisburg, Shippensburg, Wilkes-Barre, Lancaster, Pottsville or York may be able to help with your case. Contact Metzger Wickersham toll free at 1-800-WIN-WIN-1 (946-9461) or visit us online for a free case evaluation.

Greyhound Bus Crash in Pennsylvania Leaves One Dead and Dozens Injured

busA Greyhound bus en route from New York City to Cleveland smashed into the back of a tractor-trailer on I-80 in Pennsylvania on Wednesday, October 9th, 2013. The crash, which took place about 70 miles North of Harrisburg at approximately 1:30am, left one woman dead and dozens injured.

The cause of the accident is still under investigation, but according to news reports, we do know that more than 40 of the 50 passengers aboard the Greyhound suffered different degrees of injuries, ranging from minor to critical. 

17 of the injured passengers were taken to Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, PA where least four of them were listed in critical condition. A Greyhound spokesperson has reported that the driver of the bus, Sabrina Anderson, 42, was one of the four people in critical condition.

The remaining injured passengers were treated at other local hospitals.

If you’ve been injured in a Greyhound bus crash, a Pennsylvania personal injury lawyer can ensure that your rights are protected. Metzger Wickersham’s bus accident attorneys offer a free consulation for injured accident victims. Contact us today for legal advice.

How Does the Government Shutdown Affect Social Security Disability?

Social Security benefit checks will continue being mailed to recipients during the government shutdown. “Social Security and Supplemental Security Income [SSI] payments to beneficiaries will continue with no change in payment dates,” says a shutdown-related bulletin on the Social Security website.

Social Security BenefitsAccording to the SSA’s statement, Social Security field offices will remain open but with limited services. Field offices will still assist with new benefit applications and appeals. Those looking to appeal a decision or apply for benefits may also do so online; Social Security’s online services will remain up and running.

It is good news that new benefit applications (including terminally ill and compassionate allowances) will continue being processed — but expect major delays, because many Social Security employees will be furloughed during the shutdown.

The SSA Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR) will continue hearing and deciding cases. However, ODAR will not be docketing and tracking new cases, scheduling hearings, decision-writing, screening cases for on-the-record decisions, and many other activities.

If you are a current or potential Social Security client of Metzger Wickersham law firm and have questions about your claim, feel free to contact our office at any time.

Preventable Medical Errors Contribute to Thousands of Deaths Each Year

doctor mistake

A study in the current issue of the Journal of Patient Safety says that the number of deaths related to bad hospital care may be steadily increasing.

In 2010, the Office of Inspector General for Health and Human Services reported that substandard hospital care contributed to the deaths of about 180,000 patients on Medicare alone in a given year. Now, the new study released by the Journal of Patient Safety suggests that between 210,000 and 440,000 hospital patients each year suffer some type of preventable harm that contributes to their death.

What’s the exact number of people who suffer adverse events caused by negligent medical care? No one really knows for certain. As of now, there is no completely accurate method to measure the number of hospital mistakes, so all we can do is estimate based on available data.

However, what’s important is that preventable adverse events do occur, and it’s crucial to increase patient awareness of the potential for unintended complications when receiving medical care.

John T. James, who conducted the recent study, wrote, “All evidence points to the need for much more patient involvement in identifying harmful events and participating in rigorous follow-up investigations to identify root causes.”

An alarming number of people are being harmed by preventable medical errors each year, and this epidemic should be treated with seriousness in the medical community and beyond. Don’t turn a blind eye to the scary reality of medical negligence. It can happen to anyone. Stay informed and demand full communication with your doctor the next time you step foot in the hospital, so that you can be aware of any risks involved in your treatment.

If you or a loved one has been a victim of medical negligence, contact Metzger Wickersham today to find out if you may have legal recourse. Contact our firm online or call 1-800-WIN-WIN-1 (946-9461).

Source: philly.com