What to Do After a Bicycle Accident

No matter how carefully you ride your bike, a bicycle accident may inevitably happen. There are more bicyclists on the roads than ever before, and that means there is more potential for bicycle accidents. Since 2000, the number of people riding their bikes to work increased by 60%.

Many cities have taken action to increase safety for bicyclists, including developing designated bike lanes and providing public safety information. Many other cities have not taken these steps, however, and bicycle-related accidents continue to be a problem.

Cycling in the Old Pueblo

Last year Bicycling magazine compiled a list of the “Best Bike Cities in America;” Tucson ranked 24th out of 50 cities. The editors cited Tucson’s extensive network of off-street bike paths and Tucson’s Bicycle Boulevard Master Plan, which aims to develop 193 miles of bicycle boulevards in the city, as positives. They noted that Tucson’s high fatality rate for bicyclists (six deaths per 10,000 riders) prevented them from ranking the Old Pueblo higher.

In spite of Tucson’s commitment to making the streets safer for cyclists, Tucson has nearly the highest rate of accidents involving bicycles in the US. In 2017 Forbes magazine dubbed Tucson the second most dangerous city for riding a bicycle.

Both drivers and bicyclists should be aware of some of the most frequent causes of bicycle accidents. These include distracted driving (both driver and bicyclist), failure to yield to a bicycle, dangerous road conditions, and riding at night.

Bicycle Safety

May is National Bike Month, where cyclists celebrate the many benefits of bicycling. But first and foremost, safe cycling is the priority for young and old.

To help keep riders safe, Pima County offers bicycle safety classes that include Traffic Skills 101 and a bicycle mechanics class. Riders can also learn about the Pima County Bike Buddy Program that teams experienced riders with novice cyclists. The safety classes may include free bike safety items such as lights, helmets, and locks. 

The top bicycle safety tip promoted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Association is to wear a helmet. Riders and parents with young children should also ensure that helmets fit properly, because an ill-fitting helmet may offer little to no protection in the event of a fall or a collision.

NHTSA’s bicycle safety initiatives provide the following tips for safe cycling:

Tips if You Get In a Bike Accident

Even if you’re careful, you may find yourself involved in a bicycle accident. If injured, you should know what to do in the aftermath. Consumer Reports provides some tips to help you know what to do in the event of a crash.

  • Move off the road and assess your injuries. The shock of the crash may mask what you feel at the scene; injuries may reveal themselves once the shock wears off.
  • Either you or someone at the scene (if you are unable to do so) should get information from the driver of the vehicle, including their phone number, information about their car, license plate, and insurance information.
  • It is a good idea to take a picture of the license plate and the driver’s insurance card. Also, get names and contact information from any witnesses at the scene.
  • Call 911 to report the crash. If you are injured, the police should come to the scene and prepare an incident report. Ask the driver to stay at the scene until the police arrive.
  • At this point you may not know the extent of your injuries and damages, so avoid accepting any offers of compensation from the driver.
  • Make sure you write down the details of the crash for yourself so you can remember exactly what happened.
  • Depending on your injuries you may not need to be transported by ambulance, but it is important to get yourself checked as soon as possible. Even if you don’t feel injured at the moment, it is always a good idea to get medical attention.
  • Likewise, get your bike inspected to make sure there isn’t any hidden damage that could crop up later.
  • Talk to an attorney before making any statement to the insurance company, especially if you’re injured.
  • Finally, read more tips to keep safe when riding a bicycle.

If you have been injured in a bicycle accident, consult the experienced bicycle injury attorneys at Hollingsworth Kelly.

Pedestrian Accidents Increase in Arizona

Pedestrianaccidents causing serious injury or death have seen a dramatic increase in Arizona.In Tucson, a 17-year-old Cholla High School student walking to school lastmonth was tragically killed by a speeding motorist as she tried to cross a busywestside street. In January, two pedestrians were killed while attempting tocross local streets. One was a man who was struck by an SUV as he crossed aneastside street. The other was a young man who was celebrating his birthday justafter the new year and was hit by a truck as he crossed a dark road on thenorthwest side of town.

When apedestrian is killed it is a devastating loss for the victim’s loved ones and friends,but it’s also tragic for the at-fault motorist who will have to live the restof his life knowing he was responsible for someone’s death.

According tothe ArizonaGovernor’s Office of Highway Safety, fatalities in Arizona increased morethan 40 percent in a four-year period, with 228 pedestrian fatalities in 2017compared with 160 in 2013.

The GovernorsHighway Safety Association released a report last year showing pedestriandeaths at levels not seen in decades. Arizona was one of four states that experiencedalmost half of all pedestrian deaths, and was ranked firstin the nation in pedestrian fatalities. In Tucson there were 28pedestrian deaths in 2018, up from 24 in 2017 and 12in 2016.

Factors Contributing to PedestrianAccidents

The ArizonaGovernor’s Office of Highway Safety is working with local and national officialsto determine the causes of the increase in pedestrian traffic deaths and tocreate awareness across the state about precautions both motorists andpedestrians should take when on the road.

Severalfactors have been identified as contributing to the increase in pedestrianaccidents. A major one is distracteddriving, particularly with the rise of cell phone use. Drivers who arepaying attention to their cell phones aren’t paying enough attention to theroad, or to pedestrians crossing in front of them.

We know thatdistracted driving is dangerous, but so is distracted walking. Texting, talkingon your phone, checking e-mail, and playing games on a cell phone are dangerousdistractions that pedestrians may not realize put them in danger, especiallywhen attempting to cross a street.

The rise inpedestrian deaths has also coincided with the popularity of SUVs. Their largersize, heavier weight, and higher clearance makes it more likely that hitting apedestrian will have deadly consequences.

Pedestrians not crossing at an intersection, wearing dark clothes at night, orbeing under the influence of drugs or alcohol puts them at increased risk ofbeing hit by a car.

For drivers,speeding, being impaired by drugs or alcohol, making a right or left turnwithout checking for pedestrians, and not respecting crosswalks are preventablebehaviors that can reduce pedestrian deaths.

Pedestrian Safety in Tucson

Tucson cityofficials have been working to make local streets safer for pedestrians. Tucsoninstalled High-Intensity Activated Crosswalk (HAWK) signals to help citizenscross streets more safely. A pedestrian who wants to cross a street activatesthe signal, which changes from yellow to red to alert traffic to stop.

Tucson installedthe first HAWK signal in 2000. Since then, they have been 90 percenteffective in making drivers aware of pedestrians preparing to cross a roadway.Currently Tucson has more than 100 HAWK signals, and the city recently receiveda grant from the Federal Highway Administration to install six more.

Avoiding Pedestrian Traffic Accidents

Both driversand pedestrians can take steps to preventpedestrian accidents. Drivers in Arizona must yield the right-of-way topedestrians, whether they are in a marked or unmarked crosswalk.  All intersections on public roads havecrosswalks. If they are not marked, they are designated by an “imaginary” linewhere the sidewalk or edge of the roadway crosses the street.

Drivers arealso required by law to exercise duecare to avoid striking a pedestrian. Here are tips to help motorists sharethe road safely with pedestrians:

  • Use your turn signal to let pedestrians knowwhen you are changing lanes or turning at an intersection.
  • Be aware of pedestrians near the roadway; be particularlyaware of the presence of children or anyone who seems incapacitated or confusedas they may suddenly dart in front of traffic.
  • Make sure you slow down when pedestrians arenearby, as the chances of serious injury or death increase with speed. While apedestrian hit at 20 mph has a chance of survival of 95 percent, those odds decreaseto 16 percent at 40 mph. 
  • It is against the law to pass a school bus withflashing lights and an extended stop sign, so you must always stop. Even if thelights are not flashing, watch out for children around the bus, who may dartinto traffic without notice.
  • Pay attention to the road when driving. Don’t bedistracted by activities such as checking a cellphone or texting while driving. 

Pedestrians should also exercise caution when walking alonga roadway or crossing a street. When crossing a road anywhere other than at amarked or unmarked crosswalk, a pedestrian must yield the right-of-way tovehicles. The following tips will help you stay safe when walking on or near aroadway:

  • Always make sure that you can see traffic.
  • If crossing a street or roadway, try to cross ata location that gives you the best view of traffic and where drivers can bestsee you.
  • Don’t assume that drivers will always stop, evenif you are at a crosswalk. Make sure everyone is stopped before you step ontothe road. Be particularly aware of turning vehicles, as they may be looking atoncoming traffic and may not see you.
  • Make sure you are visible. Walk toward trafficand wear bright or reflective clothes at night.
  • When walking in a rural area, walk as far offthe roadway as possible.
  • Stay alert when crossing a street. Don’t useheadphones, cell phones or anything that may distract you from safely crossingthe street.

Being alerton the road, both as drivers and pedestrians, can save lives.

Know the Risks and Benefits of Medical Devices

Medical science continues to make great progress in diagnosingillnesses and treating them. Devices of many types allow doctors to see insidethe body to diagnose a variety of conditions. Other types of medical devicesthat are used or implanted inside the body provide relief from many painfulconditions. However, no matter how far medical science has progressed, thereare still risks and benefits that people need to consider before undergoingeven the most routine procedure involving a medical device.

Here are a few common devices and procedures, as well as someinjuries and issues that have been associated with them.

Medical Scopes

Each year, millions of people in the U.S. have a procedure witha medical scope of some type. In these procedures, a doctor places aninstrument called an endoscope inside the body to examine the esophagus,stomach, bile ducts, colon, lungs, bladder, or other organs. After eachprocedure these devices are cleaned and re-used on another patient. Duodenoscopes,which are used to diagnose and treat stomach and other GI tract conditions,have been of particular concern.

Since 2013, at least 35 people have died from after having aprocedure that used a duodenoscope. The problem is that the design of the scopemakes cleaningit extremely difficult, so even if the scope is cleaned according to themanufacturer’s instructions, bacteria can still be trapped inside the scope andtransferred to another patient. A paperpublished in April 2018 showed that 71 percent of scopes tested at three majorU.S. hospital were contaminated with bacteria.

In 2015 the FDAdirected three duodenoscope manufacturers (Olympus, Fujifilm, and Pentax) tostudy this issue. Interimresults of these studies released in December 2018 showed that up to threepercent of samples were contaminated with “low-concern” organisms, and up to threepercent were contaminated with organisms of high concern. Sampling iscontinuing.

One manufacturer, Olympus, pled guiltyin December 2018 to charges of failing to file reports about infections stemmingfrom its scopes.  The company agreed topay $85 million to resolve the charges. Additionally, the company settled lawsuitswith two women whose husbands died after undergoing a procedure with the scopeand becoming infected with a “superbug” bacteria resistant to most antibiotics.

Other types of scopes are similarly difficult to clean. Bronchoscopes,which are used to look inside the lungs, have also been found to be contaminated,even after cleaning, and have likewise been linked to “superbug” infections.

Bone Cement

There are over a million joint replacements performed eachyear in the U.S. In many of these procedures, the surgeon uses bone cement.Bone cement doesn’t actually “glue” the joint into place; it fills the spacebetween the artificial joint and the bone to keep the joint in place. The useof bone cement in joint replacements is not without complications, however. Thebone cement can break loose, which can cause pain and affect movement. It canalso leakinto the body.

The most serious problem is bone cement implantationsyndrome (BCIS).Fortunately, this complication is rare, but when it happens, it causes thecardiovascular system to collapse and can cause death,often during the procedure.  BCIS hasbeen reported with knee,shoulder, and hipreplacements. One studyfrom the UK reported 41 deaths linked to the use of cement in hip replacement.

BCIS has also been reported in patients undergoing spinalsurgery. As early as 2002, the FDA sent a warningabout a bone cement that was being used to treat spinal fractures and had beenlinked to serious complications, including blood clots in the lungs, cardiacfailure, and death.

In 2011 the government filed charges against a companycalled Synthes, a manufacturer of bone cement. The company had been testing acement that had not been approved by the FDA for use in spinal surgeries. Fivepatients who received the cement had died during surgery after the company ignoredreports that the cement could have fatal consequences. Because the company hadnot been conducting a clinical trial, patients weren’t advised of the risks andgiven a chance to decide if they wanted to receive the bone cement. FourSynthes executives were also charged, pled guilty and sentenced to time injail.

Pelvic Mesh

Pelvic mesh is a relatively recent product that wasinitially marketed in the 1990s to treat stress urinary incontinence in women.After the success of that product, it started being used for pelvic organprolapse. However, the use of the mesh for pelvic organ prolapse has beenassociated with complicationsincluding pain, infection, bleeding, mesh erosion, urinary problems, andperforation of organs, and has prompted tens of thousands of lawsuits.

The FDA received over 10,000 reports of seriousinjuries from pelvic (transvaginal) mesh that occurred from January 2008 toOctober 2018, including 77 deaths. Previously, in 2011, the FDA had issued awarning, and in 2016 they classified it as a high-risk device.

Earlier this year, a woman was awarded $41million in a verdict against one of the manufacturers of pelvic mesh,Johnson & Johnson. Altogether, more than 100,000women are suing manufacturers of pelvic mesh due to the complications they haveexperienced. Some women describe continuous pain due to the plastic of the meshperforating the vaginal wall.

This is another instance of the product being marketed andused without the benefit of long-term study,to the detriment of thousands of women. Transvaginal mesh and is bannedin the UK, Australia and New Zealand. On February 12, 2019, an FDApanel met to discuss the future of transvaginal mesh in the U.S. The paneldecided that rather than pulling the mesh off the market, they would like morelong-term studies.

What to Do If YouNeed a Procedure or Medical Device

If you are faced with needing a medical procedure or device,how can you weigh the risks and benefits? You need to be fully aware of whetherthe device has been studied in clinical trials and has been approved by theFDA. Even if a device has been approved , such as a duodenoscope, you need toknow if there are other issues, such as infection risk, associated with itsuse.

Doing an internet search on the device or procedure may helpanswer questions such as:

  • What is the history of the procedure/device?
  • Has the device been approved by the FDA?
  • What are the risks and benefits?
  • What complications have been reported?
  • Are there ongoing lawsuits associated with thedevice?
  • What are the alternatives?

You should also carefully read the consent document for theprocedure, as it should list the potential risks and complications.

Speak with your healthcare providers also. What is theirexperience with the procedure/device? How many times have they done theprocedure?  What are the most commoncomplications? Before making a decision, you may also want to speak with otherpatients who have had the procedure.

The bottom line is that you should arm yourself with as muchknowledge as you can before undergoing a procedure so you know the risks andbenefits and can make an informed decision.  

Driving and Cell Phones Are a Deadly Combination

Injuries and deaths due to distracted driving—primarily from the use of cell phones—are increasing. Driving and cell phones are a deadly combination.

A study of driving and cell phone use in 2017 found that almost 90 percent of drivers reported using their cell phones while operating a vehicle. The study also found that drivers spent more than three minutes per hour on their phones, a distraction that significantly increased their chances of having a car accident.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that distracted driving caused 391,000 injuries from motor vehicle accidents in 2015, and 3,450 deaths in 2016. Of these fatal crashes, 14 percent involved the use of a cell phone.

Cell phone use is often under-reported in accident statistics, however. NHTSA’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System Encyclopedia tracks the causes of motor vehicle accidents. Their information relies on drivers or accident witnesses reporting cell phone use. According to a report from the National Safety Council, “Crashes Involving Cell Phones: Challenges of Collecting and Reporting Reliable Crash Data,” police may not report cell phone use if another violation contributed to the accident. For example, the police report may say that the driver failed to stay in the proper lane, but they may not report that it was due to cell phone use. It may be years before we know the true picture of how many injuries and deaths are caused by distracted drivers, particularly those involving cell phones.

Anything that takes a driver’s eyes or attention off the road is potentially an accident waiting to happen. As a result, many cities and states have passed laws to ban texting and driving.

Tucson ban on cellphones and driving

The Tucson City Council voted last year to regulate the use of cell phones and portable electronic devices while driving. The Council passed a hands-free ordinance making the use of handheld electronic devices while driving a primary offense, which means that police officers can pull over drivers they see or suspect are using a cellphone. The mere fact that a driver is holding a cell phone in his or her hand is an infraction.

A previous law stated that drivers could only be cited for cell phone use if the officer had pulled them over for another reason. A similar law has been in effect in Pima County since 2017.

The change is designed to prevent distractions from texting and using phones for other purposes, such as social media, while operating a vehicle. Under the new law, drivers are permitted to use a hands-free device. Drivers cannot use a device that is not hands-free while driving or while stopped on a street or highway (such as at a stop light or sign).

Ticketing for this offense started in late March. A first-time violator can be fined $50, although if there is an accident the fine will be a minimum of $250.

Arizona—only one of 3 states with no texting ban

Arizona is currently one of only three states that does not have a law that bans texting while driving. In 2016, AT&T analyzed data from a campaign called It Can Wait and found that texting bans are working—states with texting bans have far lower rates of texting while driving. This means fewer drivers in the 47 states that ban texting and driving are putting themselves or others at risk for accidental injury or death.

Last year the Arizona Senate considered a law to ban texting while driving. Although the bill that was put forward by committee was not passed, in July Governor Doug Ducey signed into law a bill that prohibits teenagers from texting while driving when they have a learner’s permit, and within the first six months of getting their driver’s license.

Reduce your risk from distracted driving

You can’t control what others do, but you can reduce your chances of injury from an accident by not using your cell phone at all when you’re driving. According to the National Safety Council, drivers having a phone conversation may miss up to 50 percent of what’s going on around them even when using a hands-free device. Texting is even more of a distraction. A driver’s eyes will be off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds while texting, which at 55 mph means the car can travel the length of a football field without the driver paying attention.

If you are walking or bicycling, it is just as important that you stay focused on your surroundings rather than your electronic device.

Remember also to use your seat belt to reduce your risk if you are involved in an accident.

Wrong-Way Crashes Cause Serious Injury and Death

Each year an average of 360 people nationwide are killed in wrong-way crashes, according to a report by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). The report states that although collisions involving wrong-way drivers only account for about three percent of accidents, wrong-way crashes cause serious injury and death because these are usually head-on crashes.

Several decades of research shows that wrong-way crashes have higher rates of fatalities than other types of accidents. In addition, data from 2004 to 2009 showed that 60 percent of fatal wrong-way crashes likely involved impairment by alcohol.

In Arizona, the number of cases of drivers going the wrong way increased more than eight percent between 2016 and 2017, with over 1,700 reported wrong-way incidents in 2017. That year, wrong way drivers caused 54 accidents, with 18 fatalities.

Arizona Takes Action Against Wrong-Way Driving

The state has been taking measures to reduce wrong-way driving. In the fall of 2017, the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) installed a thermal detection system in Phoenix.

The system uses cameras at exit ramps and along the interstate. When a camera spots a vehicle traveling the wrong way, it sends an alert to ADOT, which then sends messages to highway alert boards to warn drivers of the danger. If the system detects a wrong-way driver at an off-ramp, it activates a flashing red sign to alert the wrong-way driver.

In any case, the system also notifies law enforcement, who can then travel to the scene. As of mid-June, this technology had detected more than 12 wrong-way drivers.

The state has also installed hundreds of larger “Do Not Enter” and “Wrong Way” signs throughout Arizona.

As part of Arizona’s effort to address the wrong-way driving problem, Governor Doug Ducey signed a law last year that imposes tougher penalties for motorists caught driving the wrong way. Wrong-way drivers in Arizona who are found to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol will now face felony charges, including a possible four months to 2½ years in prison. Anyone stopped for wrong-way driving will be fined $500 and will be required to attend traffic school.

“Drive Aware Get There” Safety Campaign

ADOT’S Drive Aware Get There safety campaign was launched to reduce wrong-way driving and help motorists learn what can they can do to protect themselves from a wrong-way driver.

Because research shows most wrong-way drivers are impaired, driving defensively is key to preventing a tragic encounter. Motorists are advised to avoid distractions while driving and to focus on their surroundings, including what is far ahead on the road, giving them a chance to spot any erratic driving and take action before it becomes an issue.

ADOT advises that if you are on a two-lane road, stay away from the center line to accommodate oncoming cars that may be closer to the center line. If you see a vehicle coming towards you, get to the side of the road and call 911. If you are on a highway, try to stay in the right lane, as wrong-way drivers are more likely to be in the far left lane or in the carpool lane.

If you see that a wrong-way driver is coming towards you, ADOT recommends you slow by easing your foot off the gas and try to steer away from the wrong-way driver. Again, if you can, get off the road and call 911.

Of all vehicle accidents, head-on collisions have the greatest potential to cause serious injuries and fatalities. Although Arizona is taking steps to reduce the chances of wrong-way driving, you can do your part to keep yourself and others safe by being alert, wearing your seat belt, not driving while impaired, and avoiding distractions while driving.

Medical Errors Can Lead to Medical Malpractice

A few months ago the AZ Daily Star reported that Banner University Medical Center’s conversion to a new computer system came with a cost to patient care and had resulted in numerous instances of medical errors. The Star cited an investigation by the Arizona Department of Health Services, the state licensing arm that licenses medical facilities and other medical providers, that found at least two substantiated allegations that included the delivery of medications and care for critically ill patients. Although the hospital denied the errors resulted in negative outcomes for patients, the unfortunate reality is that vulnerable patients are the ones at highest risk of medical malpractice in hospital settings.

Patients who have experienced an adverse outcome following a medical procedure or surgery often wonder if their experience rises to the level of medical malpractice, and if they have legal recourse against the doctor, nurse, or medical facility where the incident took place.

What is Medical Malpractice
According the Board of American Liability Attorneys, medical malpractice occurs when a hospital, doctor, or other health care professional, through a negligent act or omission, causes an injury to a patient. The negligence might be the result of errors in diagnosis, treatment, aftercare, or health management.

Medicare “Never Events”
Medicare also weighs in on medical malpractice by providing a list a “Never Events,” which are conditions that may happen in a hospital that are so severe that Medicare will not pay for the additional cost of treating for the event. The “Never Events” list includes:
 Pressure ulcer stages III and IV;
 Falls and trauma;
 Surgical site infection after bariatric surgery for obesity, certain orthopedic procedures, and bypass surgery (mediastinitis);
 Vascular-catheter associated infection;
 Administration of incompatible blood;
 Air embolism;
 Foreign object unintentionally retained after surgery.

Do I have a Medical Malpractice Claim?
When a medical malpractice attorney evaluates a medical malpractice claim, the initial screening will try to determine whether the medical harm was due to negligence, and assess the impact of the medical error to the patient. If there was negligence and the patient was inconvenienced for a period of time but was able to make a full recovery, it’s unlikely a medical malpractice attorney would accept such a case because the damages would not justify the cost of the claim.

However, if the attorney learns during the screening process that there was negligence on the part of the physician or other medical provider and the harm to the patient was catastrophic or resulted in death, the attorney may accept the case and begin the investigation process.

Every case involving medical error is different, as is the level of harm. The attorneys at Hollingsworth Kelly encourage patients or patient advocates to contact our office for a free evaluation if they believe their unsatisfactory experience with a medical provider rises to the level of medical malpractice.