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Safety Officials Recommend Mandates for Crash-Avoidance Systems in Autos

The National Transportation Safety Board has issued a new recommendation.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recently issued a recommendation that the federal government require auto manufacturers to include the latest crash-avoidance technologies as standard equipment on all new automobiles, saying such a policy could cut in half the rate of fatal crashes on American roads.

The recommended technologies include collision detection systems, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning systems, and electronic stability control. Each feature is already available on some cars and trucks, but some are limited mainly to luxury vehicles. The NTSB said they should be mandated on all vehicles, despite concerns from auto industry representatives about the effect such a requirement would have on the cost of new cars.

“The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration should establish performance standards where still needed and mandate that these technologies be included as standard equipment in cars and commercial motor vehicles alike,” the NTSB said in a statement. “Their full life-saving and crash-avoidance potential will not be realized until supported by federal rule making and related standards.”

Electronic stability control selectively applies braking power to individual wheels when other wheels lose traction. Federal law already requires it in new passenger vehicles under 10,000 pounds.

Lane departure warning systems monitor the car’s position on the road. When the car drifts out of its lane without signaling, the system responds with audible and visible warnings.

Forward collision detection, automatic braking, and adaptive cruise control are interrelated. Sensors in the front of a vehicle detect the proximity of cars, people, and other objects in the vehicle’s path. Adaptive cruise control enables the car to automatically apply at least a portion of available braking power when traffic ahead slows and return to the set speed when traffic speeds up. Collision detection alerts the driver when the car is approaching something too quickly. Automatic braking allows the car to autonomously apply as much braking power as possible to avoid a collision with whatever lies in its path.

The NTSB also recommended mandates for tire-pressure monitoring systems and, for commercial trucks, speed-limiting systems.

Automakers are wary of the costs that would be added to all new vehicles should such safety features be mandated. Collision warning systems without automatic braking cost $1,000 to $3,000 per vehicle, according to government estimates, and those that include automatic braking cost about $3,500.

“In this still-fragile economy, maintaining affordability of new vehicles remains a concern,” said Gloria Vergquist, vice president of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers. “Today, the average price of a new vehicle is $30,000, more than half the median income in the U.S.”

But safety advocates pointed out that the per-vehicle cost of these safety features would decline if they were standard equipment on all cars.

Robert Briskman is a Chicago car accident lawyer and Chicago car accident attorney with Briskman Briskman & Greenberg. To learn more call 1.877.595.4878 or visit http://www.briskmanandbriskman.com/.

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Injured Woman Sues Chicago Go-Kart Facility

A customer at a go-kart racetrack in Beford Park is suing the facility’s ownership and management. She claims the seat belt on the go-kart she was driving did not function properly and as a result, she sustained injuries.

Kimberly Ball filed suit in Cook County Circuit Court on a recent Wednesday claiming that when she visited Chicago Race Factory on May 2, 2012, employees assigned her to a go-kart with a broken seat belt. The lawsuit alleges that they informed her the seat belts were for use only by children and that adults did not need to wear them.

Ball’s lawsuit claims that while driving the vehicle through the track’s first turn, her “body slid on the driver’s seat causing her leg, knee, hip and ankle to be injured.” She seeks damages in excess of $50,000.

The complaint alleges negligence on the part of the parent company and employees by permitting and instructing Ball to drive a go-kart with a non-functioning seat belt. It also names the racetrack’s manager, claiming he did not properly train his staff in safety precautions and allowed them to assign the go-kart with a broken seat belt.

The Chicago Race Factory’s website claims that it has the only quarter-mile-long track in the city and features “top-of-the-line go karts” with a top speed of 45 mph.

Paul Greenberg is a Chicago car accident lawyer and Chicago car accident attorney with Briskman Briskman & Greenberg. To learn more call 1.877.595.4878 or visit http://www.briskmanandbriskman.com/.

Feds Sue Chicago Doctor in Prescription Drug Kickback Case

Federal authorities have charged a Chicago doctor with taking kickbacks.

Federal authorities filed suit against Dr. Michael J. Reinstein, a Chicago psychiatrist, on November 15, alleging that in exchange for kickbacks from drug companies, he prescribed a potentially dangerous psychotropic drug to thousands of Chicago-area nursing home patients with mental illnesses.

In a statement, acting U.S. Attorney Gary Shapiro said the lawsuit is “the largest civil case alleging prescription medication fraud against an individual ever brought in Chicago.”

In a 2009 joint investigation, the Chicago Tribune and ProPublica found that Reinstein relied very heavily on clozapine, a risky and powerful psychotropic drug. In 2007, Reinstein prescribed the medicine more than all the doctors in Texas combined, according to the investigation.

The lawsuit, filed recently in U.S. District Court in Chicago, alleges that Reinstein made no less than 140,000 false Medicare and Medicaid claims for antipsychotic drugs he had prescribed based on kickbacks from the manufacturers of the drugs, without regard to his patients’ needs.

Authorities further allege that he submitted at least 50,000 Medicare and Medicaid claims falsely stating that he had monitored his patients at Chicago-area nursing homes and long-term care facilities.

Authorities are seeking triple damages under the False Claims Act, in addition to civil penalties for every alleged false claim. The total damages could quickly reach seven or even eight figures.

Novartis, the maker of Clozaril, a brand name for clozapine, had a longstanding agreement with Reinstein to pay him to promote the drug, according to authorities.

The lawsuit described Clozaril as a “drug of last resort” and claims that despite this fact Reinstein routinely had thousands of patients taking clozapine at any given time.

In 1998, the patent on Clozaril expired, and generic versions of clozapine hit the market. But Reinstein “resisted pharmacy and drug company efforts to switch his patients to generic clozapine and continued to be the largest prescriber of Novartis’s Clozaril to Medicaid recipients in the United States,” according to the lawsuit.

In the summer of 2003, Novartis stopped paying Reinstein to promote Clozaril. At that time, Florida-based IVAX Pharmaceuticals Inc. tried to persuade Reinstein to switch to the firm’s generic form of clozapine.

Reinstein agreed, and for the next several years, IVAX paid him $50,000 per year under a “consulting agreement,” the suit alleged.

“After reaching this kickback agreement with IVAX, Reinstein immediately began switching his patients from Clozaril to IVAX’s clozapine,” the suit said. He soon became “the largest prescriber of generic clozapine in the United States.”

The lawsuit alleged that IVAX and its eventual parent company, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, paid for at least three trips to Miami for Reinstein and several associates, including hotel, airfare, cruises, and dinners.

After the 2009 publication of the Tribune-ProPublica investigation into Reinstein, he told Teva to stop paying him, the suit says.

A spokeswoman for Teva released a statement saying the company was cooperating with investigators.

Paul Greenberg is a Chicago medical malpractice lawyer and Chicago medical malpractice attorney with Briskman Briskman & Greenberg. To learn more call 1.877.595.4878 or visit http://www.briskmanandbriskman.com/.

Senior Drivers Present Safety Challenges, but Valuable Resources are Available

Seniors on the road can be a sensitive subject. Seniors are safe drivers in that they tend to wear seat belts, obey the speed limit and avoid drinking and driving. However, data from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety show that crash rates begin to rise around age 65 and rise very steeply after age 80.

Most seniors are very eager to maintain their independence, which in most of the country can be quite difficult without driving. But many seniors must at some point give up driving for the safety of themselves and others. If you think it may be time for your parent or another senior to give up the keys, watch for these warning signs:

  • slow reactions;
  • inability to turn the neck or body enough to check blind spots;
  • cognitive difficulties resulting in getting lost or calling for help;
  • frequent fender benders or dents and scrapes on the car;
  • difficulty reading signs and road markings.

The Independent Transportation Network, or ITNAmerica, was founded to meet the challenge of limited transportation alternatives for seniors who must give up driving. The door-to-door service is available on a membership basis in a number of communities nationwide, including Chicago and Racine, Wisconsin.

CarFit is an educational program sponsored by the AARP and AAA that helps older drivers adjust their cars’ seats, mirrors and steering wheels to properly fit them for maximum safety and comfort. CarFit events are held throughout the year and across the nation.

The AARP offers driving safety courses geared to seniors. Illinois and 33 other states mandate automobile insurance discounts for drivers who complete the course.

Paul Greenberg is a car accident lawyer and Chicago car accident attorney with Briskman Briskman & Greenberg. To learn more call 1.877.595.4878 or visit http://www.briskmanandbriskman.com/.

Firearm Sales Website Sued in Connection with Shooting Death

Gun control advocates will try to hold a website that facilitates arms sales legally responsible for the murder of a sixth grade teacher in Oak Brook.

The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence recently filed suit in Cook County Circuit Court against Armslist LLC on behalf of the family of Jitka Vesel, who was shot to death in 2011.

The filing comes shortly after a federal appeals court ruling striking down a state law banning the carrying of concealed weapons.

Gun control advocates say that firearms are increasingly being sold online to those not legally permitted to own them and rampant abuse has led online retail leaders like Amazon and eBay to ban arms sales on their websites.

Armslist.com carries classified advertisements for the purchase and sale of guns and ammo. Jonathan Lowy, director of the Brady Center’s Legal Action Project, said the man who murdered Vesel purchased the handgun used in the crime from a gun dealer advertising on Armslist.com.

The website has a disclaimer urging buyers and sellers to comply with all applicable laws and states that the company “does not become involved in transactions between parties.”

Experts say that the lawsuit is the first ever against an arms website for its role in a shooting death. The lawsuit seeks unspecified monetary damages.

Dmitry Smirnov, an immigrant from Russia who lived in British Columbia, was convicted of murdering Vesel and is currently serving a sentence of life in prison without parole. The lawsuit says that after contacting a Seattle gun dealer through Armslist.com, Smirnov traveled to Seattle to purchase the .40-caliber handgun before heading to Chicago. The Seattle man who sold Smirnov the weapon received a 14-month prison sentence for illegally selling a firearm to a non-U.S. citizen.

Robert Briskman is a Chicago wrongful death attorney and wrongful death lawyer with Briskman Briskman & Greenberg. To learn more call 1.877.595.4878 or visit http://www.briskmanandbriskman.com/.

Illinois Businesses Illegally Classifying Employees as Independent Contractors

State agencies including the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission are joining together to crack down on businesses that improperly classify employees as independent contractors.

In contrast to employees, independent contractors who get hurt while working are not eligible for workers’ compensation.

Some business owners may make an honest mistake in misclassifying employees, but others do it deliberately in an illegal attempt to keep costs down, thereby gaining a competitive business advantage. State officials say the recent crackdown is aimed at businesses engaging in deliberate employee misclassification.

If you are hurt on the job and believe you cannot receive workers’ compensation because you are an independent contractor, you should make sure that your job classification is correct. Your employment status cannot be arbitrarily determined by your employer; it is determined by a variety of factors, including the manner in which your employer manages your work.

If your employer has a good deal of control over your work, you are likely an employee. Employers can tell employees when to work and how to do their jobs and will often provide tools and supplies. The same cannot always be said of an independent contractor.

Misclassification is bad for employees because they are not financially compensated in case of injury and cannot earn overtime. The State of Illinois says that it is bad for the economy as well; it increases the burden of insurance and taxes on honest business owners, raising their overhead and making it more difficult for them to stay competitive with businesses that break the law.

If you have been injured on the job or are unsure whether you should be classified as an independent contractor, we can help.

Paul Greenberg is a Chicago workers’ compensation attorney and Chicago workers compensation lawyer with Briskman Briskman & Greenberg. To learn more call 1.877.595.4878 or visit http://www.briskmanandbriskman.com/.

Tailgater May Have Caused Van Full of Teenagers to Crash

A van with twelve teenage passengers drove off a highway exit ramp and rolled down an embankment near Gary, Indiana on a recent Thursday night. The youths were returning home from a basketball tournament in which they had competed. The driver reportedly had sped up to distance the van from a tailgater.

All twelve were rushed to local hospitals. One, who had been ejected from the van, was taken by helicopter to Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Illinois. According to a release from the Lake County (Ind.) Sheriff’s office, none had life-threatening injuries, and all were between the ages of 15 and 17.

The teenagers are enrolled at City Baptist Schools in Hammond, according to a Chicago Sun-Times interview with the principal, John Francis.

“From what we understand, there was a car that was tail-gating the van, flashing its high-beams, trying to get the van to go fast,” Francis said. “The van sped up to get this car off its tail and was coming up to the exit and took the exit too fast.”

The sheriff’s office said that one boy, age 17, was ejected from the vehicle, after which it came to rest on top of him. He sustained a broken rib and a cut on his head and was airlifted to Loyola University Medical Center.

“When you look at the pictures (of the crash),” it could have been much worse,” Francis said. “We’re very thankful.” Francis also commented that the tailgater did not stop at the scene of the accident.

The following day, the sheriff’s office said that the accident would be investigated further, but they had determined that alcohol was not a factor.

Robert Briskman is a car accident lawyer and Chicago car accident attorney with Briskman Briskman & Greenberg. To learn more call 1.877.595.4878 or visit http://www.briskmanandbriskman.com/.

Connected Cars, Complex Controls Distracting Drivers

Mobile technology presents an ever-increasing threat of distraction not just to the individual drivers who are tempted to use it, but to others who share the road. Car audio systems and cell phone conversations are somewhat distracting; text messaging increases the risk factor significantly. Today, even if you resist the temptation to use your cell phone while driving, your car’s built-in electronics may offer the opportunity to search the Web or update your Facebook status.

Toyota’s new electronic system, for example, called Entune, can link with Internet-enabled smartphones and display information such as stock quotes and weather forecasts.

Systems from other automakers allow drivers to access information from social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook.

Increasingly, even relatively benign tasks such as adjusting the vehicle’s climate control or radio are becoming sources of distraction due to the increasing complexity of controls for low-tech standard equipment.

Many upscale and luxury vehicles use a display screen and a single knob or joystick to control multiple vehicle systems, such as climate control, audio, and navigation. Others use touchscreens. These systems reduce the number of physical controls, streamlining the car’s dashboard and giving the appearance of simplicity. But in practice, they can be quite complex and distracting.

Controlling multiple systems through a knob or joystick often means wading through multiple menus to access the function you need. And touchscreens, unlike physical controls, are virtually impossible to use without looking at them.

Automakers should carefully weigh the pros and cons of increased data connectivity and control complexity in their models. Just because something can be done does not mean it should be done.

Paul Greenberg is a Chicago car accident lawyer and Chicago car accident attorney with Briskman Briskman & Greenberg. To learn more call 1.877.595.4878 or visit http://www.briskmanandbriskman.com/.

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The Chicago Illinois personal injury law firm of Briskman Briskman & Greenberg represents injured people throughout Illinois, including Chicago, the Chicagoland area, Joliet, Waukegan, Cicero, Evanston, Arlington Heights, Wheaton, Bolingbrook, and Naperville, as well as other cities within Cook County, Will County, DuPage County, Lake County and McHenry County.
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