May 26, 2017 Last Updated 6:14 PM, Jun 22, 2016

The Record-Making Olympian

South African Oscar Pistorius had both legs amputated halfway between his knees and ankles when he was 11 months old, due to fibular hemimelia, which is the absence or shortening of the fibula. He made headlines as the “Blade Runner” when he became the first athlete to compete in sprint events in both the Paralympic games as a below-knee amputee AND the Olympic games as an able-bodied competitor. In 2011, after winning a legal dispute claiming that his artificial limbs gave him an unfair advantage over his counterparts, he became the first amputee to win a medal in an able-bodied world track event.

The Accused Murderer

Then he made headlines again on Valentines Day in 2013 when he shot and killed his girlfriend of four months, model Reeva Steenkamp. While he admitted he was the one that pulled the trigger (four times), he stated he thought he was firing upon an intruder hiding in the bathroom in his home. He was found guilty of culpable homicide defined as "the unlawful negligent killing of a human being".

He was given a prison sentence of 5 years, but served less than a year when he was released to serve the remaining 4+ years under house arrest. An appeal in December 2015 overturned the original verdict and convicted him of murder. His sentencing will take place on July 6th of this year.

Details of the Murder

Pistorius says that he and his girlfriend had been asleep in his bed when he got up a little after 3 am to go get a fan off the balcony. He came back to hear noises in the bathroom and thought it was an intruder who had climbed in through an open window. He grabbed his gun, and shouted to Steenkamp to call the police as he fired into the small cubicle housing the toilet. He claimed he was afraid and felt vulnerable because he was not wearing his prosthetics (as he recently demonstrated by walking around the courtroom without them). When she didn’t answer, he realized it could have been her in the bathroom. The door was locked and he broke it down with a cricket bat.

He reports she was alive, slumped over the toilet when he entered, and he carried her down the stairs. Pathology reports show she was shot in the hip, arm, hand and head. The bullet in her head was the last to hit her, and was deemed “incapacitating and probably almost instantly fatal.”

Key Questions

There are a handful of questions that the prosecution and defense argued over during the course of the trial and in the appeal that followed.

  • On the night of the shooting, did the couple argue? Pistorius claimed they ate dinner, watched television then went to bed and had been sleeping for hours. Autopsy reports suggest Steenkamp had eaten as recent at two hours before, implying she was awake when Pistorius claimed she was asleep. The prosecution has testimony of neighbors who hear shouting and screaming from the house. The defense maintains it was Pistorius, realizing what he had done.
  • Why didn’t he call the police? Pistorius says he called a man name Johan Stander, an administration of his gated community, and Netcare, a private medical service. He also spoke with a security guard, whom record’s show Pistorius called first. Pistorius told the guard “everything was fine” but was crying. The guard showed up as Pistorius was carrying Steenkamp down the stairs.
  • How much police tampering was at the scene? Hilton Botha, lead detective on the case, admitted to investigating the home without proper footwear, losing ammunition and making assumptions that turned out to be untrue. There were also footprints on the bathroom door, determined to be from police shoes as they walked on the fallen door in and out of the bathroom.
  • Was Pistorius wearing his prostheses, indicating that he took the time to put them on before shooting her and therefore showing premeditation? Or was he really walking on his stumps in a panic? Members from both teams of lawyers took turns with the cricket bat, swinging at the door with different angles.
  • Why was Steenkamp in a locked bathroom with her phone at 3 a.m.? Were the couple fighting and she was scared of Pistorius? Was she hiding from him or a suspected intruder? Or was it common practice for her to lock the door as it is with many couples? Was she trying to text or call for help, or was she simply unable to sleep and browsing on her phone?
  • Why did Pistorius shoot four times and/or not fire a warning shot? The prosecution claims he was intentionally trying to kill the person behind the door while the defense maintains he was afraid for his life.

Motive and Personality

The big question was/is if he killed her on purpose, WHY did he do so? The prosecution argues he killed her after an argument. Would a simple argument be enough to drive this man to killing? Looking into his past, both good and bad, could provide some clues for both sides of the argument.

  • A former girlfriend of Pistorius, Samantha Taylor, said she had been in a similar situation with him once when she spent the night at his house. He has heard the bathroom window being hit with something, woke her up to ask if she had heard it, then grabbed his gun to go investigate.
  • Taylor also said that there were several other instances where he woke he because he thought he had heard a noise.
  • Family members of Steenkamp said she would marry him if he asked.
  • He has been in trouble for inappropriate gun use twice in the past, once when he fired a shot out of the sunroof of his car after an argument with a police officer because he was angry.

The Verdict

The appeal was held in front of five Supreme court judges who unanimously found enough evidence to throw out the lesser verdict of culpable homicide and charge him with murder. One judge stated that Pistorius should have realized firing four hollow-tip bullets into a small cubicle with no where for a person to hide would undoubtedly kill anyone who was in there, whether he thought it was an intruder or actually knew it was Steenkamp.

The defense requested the court to be lenient with their sentencing because Pistorius’s disability and asked for a non-custodial sentence that would include doing community service instead of prison. The prosecution asked the minimum murder sentence of 15 years.

Sentencing will be read July 6th, 2016.

Sources Cited

AFP. (2014, March 3). Oscar Pistorius trial: Three Key Questions for the Judge. Retrieved June 21, 2016, from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/oscar-pistorius/10671551/Oscar-Pistorius-trial-Three-key-questions-for-the-judge.html

Ap, T., & Hume, T. (2015, December 3). Oscar Pistorius Convicted of Reeva Steenkamp Murder. Retrieved June 18, 2016, from http://www.cnn.com/2015/12/03/africa/oscar-pistorius-conviction-overturn-decision-south-africa/

CNN Wire. (2014, March 11). Autopsy Details Revealed in Oscar Pistorius Murder Trial. Retrieved June 19, 2016, from http://fox8.com/2014/03/11/autopsy-details-revealed-in-oscar-pistorius-murder-trial/

Chiari, M. (2016, June 15). Latest Details, Comments Surrounding Oscar Pistorius Trial. Retrieved June 17, 2016, from http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2646464-oscar-pistorius-trial-latest-details-comments-and-sentence-date

Greene, R. A. (2014, March 16). Gory details lend Oscar Pistorius trial a 'CSI' flavor. Retrieved June 19, 2016, from http://www.cnn.com/2014/03/16/world/africa/oscar-pistorius-trial-csi/index.html

Greene, R. A., & Brumfield, B. (2014, March 13). Gruesome Shooting Scene Photos Sicken Oscar Pistorius at Murder Trial. Retrieved June 18, 2016, from http://www.cnn.com/2014/03/13/world/africa/oscar-pistorius-trial/index.html

Oscar Pistorius: 'I Did Not Mean To Kill Her' (2013, February 19). Retrieved June 17, 2016, from http://news.sky.com/story/1053938/oscar-pistorius-i-did-not-mean-to-kill-her

Strydom, T., & Heiberg, T. (2016, June 16). Pistorius walks on stumps in court as he seeks to avoid jail. Retrieved June 17, 2016, from http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/world/pistorius-walks-on-stumps-in-court-as-he-seeks-to-avoid-jail/ar-AAh552O?ocid=ansmsnnews11

New Details Emerge in Oscar Pistorius Case. (2013, February 18). Retrieved June 18, 2016, from http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/olympics/2013/02/18/oscar-pistorius-reeva-steenkamp-new-details-emerge/1928827/

Oscar Pistorius. (2016, June 17). Retrieved June 18, 2016, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oscar_Pistorius#Murder_of_Reeva_Steenkamp

It's likely the entire world has now heard about the nightclub shootings in Orlando that took place over the weekend. It is now being called the worst mass shooting in American history. When friends got together to dance and have fun at the packed LGBT nightclub known as Pulse on Saturday evening, no one could have predicted that a 29-year-old security guard named Omar Mateen would open fire in the club.

Mateen fired indiscriminately into the crowd with a AR-15 rifle and a Glock handgun. The latest news reports the death toll at 49, with 53 injured. After taking hostages, Mateen was killed in a gun battle with police officers. Before the shooting, Mateen called the authorities to pledge his allegiance to ISIS. He had been under investigation twice in the past by the FBI, but was never arrested for anything. Though no official statement has been released by the police, there is speculation that he attacked the nightclub because he was anti-LGBT.

Far Too Common

It seems like a monthly occurrence; a gunman opens fire at a theater, a school, a business, a daycare, an apartment building. Some are mentally disturbed, some have pent-up rage or hatred towards a particular group of people, and others think they are fighting for a cause. Some obtained permits and guns legally, others were taken from family or friends, some were stolen. Some were lone shooters, others had a partner. Some are killed by law enforcement, some kill themselves, some are arrested. But one thing they all have in common that is truly frightening to ponder... they are almost expected.

In 1999, when two teenage attackers killed 13 people at a public high school in Columbine, the nation was stunned. But now it seems almost common place, though none the less tragic, when we hear of another shooting. There have been at least 81 mass shootings that have taken place in public places since 1982, with over half of them being in the last decade. Here is a timeline of mass shootings starting from June 2016, going back to 2012, the year with the most shootings on record.

A History of Violence

June 12, 2016 - 49 victims and the shooter were killed in Orlando, Florida after Omar Mateen stormed a nightclub with a rifle and handgun.

December 2, 2015 - A married couple, Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik, killed 14 and wounded 17 in a conference center in San Bernardino, California.

November 27, 2015 - Robert Dear, a 57-year-old man, opened fire on a Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs, Co, killing three and wounding 9 more. He was arrested.

October 1, 2015 – Gunman Chris Harper Mercer, 26, fired into a public speaking class at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon. He shot and killed 10 people before we was killed in a firefight with police.

July 16, 2015 - Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez, 24, killed four Marines and one Navy petty officer when he fired multiple shots at two separate military locations at the Armed Forces Career Center in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Abdulazeez was killed.

June 17, 2015 – Nine people who had gathered to worship in a historic black church in Charleston, S.C. were shot by 21-year-old Dylann Storm Roof, white man who harbored anti-black views. State senator Rev. Clementa C. Pinckney was among the dead.

October 24, 2014 – At a high school cafeteria in Marysville, Washington, 15-year-old Jaylen Ray Fryberg killed four people before killing himself.

May 23, 2014 – Gunman Elliot O. Rodger, a 22-year-old college student, killed three people in his apartment and three others on the street. He committed suicide.

April 2, 2014 – Ivan Lopez, an Iraqi war veteran, killed three people when he opened fire at Fort Hood in Texas. He injured another 16 before he shot himself.

September 16, 2013 – 34-year-old shooter Aaron Alexis, a former Navy reservist, murdered twelve at the Washington navy Yard in Washington, D.C.

June 7, 2013 – John Zawahri went on a firing spree in Santa Monica, roaming the streets and firing into traffic and buildings. He killed five people before he was shot by police at the Santa Monica College Library.

December 14, 2012 – Gunman Adam Lanza killed his mother at home and then opened fire in an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, killing 20 young children and six school employees. He then killed himself in the second deadliest school shooting in U.S.

October 21, 2012 – Radcliffe F. Haughton, 45, entered a day spa in Brookfield, Wisconsin spraying bullets. After killing three, he turned the gun on himself.

September 27, 2012 - Andrew Engeldinger, 36, a employee who was fired from a sign company, went on a vengeance rampage in the business, killing five people including the owner and a UPS driver. The shooter was also killed.

August , 2012 – The leader of a white power group called End Apathy, Wade Michael Page, 40, killed six inside a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. He was killed by police.

July 20, 2012 – Gunman James Holmes entered a movie theater showing “The Dark Knight Rises” and sprayed bullets into the crowd. He murdered twelve, including a 6-year-old girl, and wounded 70 more. He was arrested without incident and sentenced to life in prison.

April 2, 2012 – A 43-year-old man names One L. Goh, killed seven at a religious college in Oakland, California. The former student turned himself in and was deemed mentally incompetent to stand trial.

Searching for Answers

Some people think stricter gun laws would solve the problem. Others want to limit who we allow into the U.S., based on race and/or religion. Perhaps people that are mentally unstable aren’t getting the help they need to keep from spiraling out of control. No matter what is to blame, mass shootings are senseless, tragic, and we need to ban together as Americans and find a solution to this widespread problem.

If you would like to read a more in-depth study of mass shootings, we recommend this site.

Four year old Killian Gonzalez made headlines last week when he was clinically decapitated in a car accident, but miraculously survived. He had just celebrated his birthday at a party and was in the car with his mother, who was driving home to Nevada when a hailstorm hit. She lost control on the slick roads and flew into oncoming traffic on two-lane State Highway 51 in Idaho. She hit another vehicle head-on.

The mother was pinned in the front seat, suffering from broken arms and legs, and couldn’t get to her son, the only thing she could think about. She later recalled thinking, “I have to get to my baby.” When she looked back at him strapped into a booster seat, he was hunched over and not crying nor awake. “I kept talking to him and trying to get him to wake up,” she retold in an interview. Then she heard him whimper and say “Mama”.

Good Samaritans

A couple and their two children were driving home from camping when they came across the accident. Leah Woodward saw the man in the other car, pinned, bloody and disoriented, but alive. She went to help Ms. Gonzalez, who was unable to unlock the door because her arm what shattered. She saw Killian in the back, still not moving, but screaming. During an interview, Ms. Woodward commented, “As a mom, that just goes right to your heart. My immediate instinct was: ‘You have to help that little guy.’ ”

Her husband, police officer Joel Woodward, broke a window in the car and crawled through, cutting himself. He told his wife to hold the child upright and keep his head still. And she did so for half an hour until help arrived, most likely saving his life. “My first instinct would have been to cradle the little guy, but clearly that would have been the wrong choice,” Ms. Woodward said. “I had my hands kind of, like, thumbs by his ears and hands wrapped behind his neck holding it still,” she said. “He didn’t fight, he was not moving; every now and then he would come to.”

She noticed a pink gel-like substance on the seats of the vehicle, the boy, and her. A nurse told her it could have been spinal fluid. Ms. Woodward spoke with Ms. Gonzalez and Killian, asking about his party and presents, trying to keep him awake. She heard him say, “I don’t hurt anymore. I am all done.” When medics arrived, they worked around her, still holding his head. They fitted him with a collar and air-lifted both he and his mother to the hospital.

The Injuries

Killian had a rupture spleen, broken ribs, broken arms, and had suffered a clinical decapitation, meaning his skull was separated from his spine. Also know as an “internal decapitation”, it is one of the most traumatic injuries suffered by small children when they are involved in high-speed motor vehicle accidents. It happens when the muscles, joints and ligaments that connect the base of the skull with the spine are damaged and is usually fatal. Four of six of Killian’s ligaments were stretched an inch during the collision but then sprang back. He will be about 1/3 an inch taller now.

This injury happens three times more often with children because the muscles in their neck are not fully developed yet. Their weak neck muscles aren’t ready to support the full weight of their head. Doctors use rods, wires or screws to reattach the skull and spine but Killian was lucky enough to only need the assistance of a hard collar to support his neck and head. He was discharged and is eating, talking and walking on his own, but still having trouble with balance.

Fatality Rates

The fatality rate of clinical decapitation is hard to determine since most victim in car accidents are not autopsied to determine exact cause of death, but a study released in 2005 reported that over a 17 year period, 16 children with the injury were treated at one hospital for the injury and only five survived, which is about 30%. Fatality rates are so high because when the skull is detached, the head wobbles around more than it should. Another reason is that the lower brain stem may be damaged, but not known, which is hazardous as the brain stem controls breathing.

What You Should Do

Here are some things that you can do to help prevent this injury and what to do in the event of a car accident.

  • Use child seats properly: The best line of defense in a car accident is a child buckled securely in a car seat. Stay with a rear-facing seat as long as the particulars of yours allows. Then when the child is forward-facing, be sure to use a five-point seatbelt harness until the upper height and weight limits are reached.
  • Stay calm: If you are in an accident with small children, you are going to panic. Those that panic can make rash decisions. Take a breath and assess the situation before you act.
  • Stay put: Unless the car is on fire, do not try to move an injured patient.
  • Immobilize: Doctors know that ff a child with this injury has any hope of surviving, their head and neck need to be immediately immobilized, just as Ms. Woodward had done for Killian.

If you or someone you love has been injured in a car wreck that wasn’t your fault, you may have a personal injury claim against them. To get all your questions answered, call Godsey Martin, P.C. at 1-877-IGOTHIT.

  

Sources Cited

Boy Recovering After Clinical Decapitation in Idaho Crash. (2016, June 07). Retrieved June 13, 2016, from http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2016/06/07/us/ap-us-internally-decapitated-boy.html

Rettner, R. (2016, June 10). Child's rare injury: What's internal decapitation? | Fox News. Retrieved June 13, 2016, from http://www.foxnews.com/health/2016/06/10/childs-rare-injury-whats-internal-decapitation.html

For many, the popping didn’t register as anything other than the loud bass filling the nightclub. Then, in an instant, screams ripped through the music, ushering in chaos. Bullets from 29-year-old Omar Mateen’s Sig Sauer MCX Carbine collided with those seeking safety; when the noise was silenced, 50 were left dead and another 53 critically injured.

We recently discussed nightclub violence after Denver Broncos’ Aqib Talib was shot in Dallas on June 5, and reviewed who could be held liable for such incidences. However, what occurred at the Orlando nightclub, Pulse, goes far beyond a fight between a few individuals. This was a deliberate, hate-fueled attack led by a self-proclaimed ISIS sympathizer; the worst attack on U.S. soil since 9/11, and the greatest mass shooting in U.S. history.

The Real Questions
The question we feel compelled to ask is, “How can a man such as Omar legally purchase a weapon?”

Regardless of where you come down with the Second Amendment and the right to bear arms, most of us should be able to agree that the restrictions are in place to keep such men with evil intent from purchasing a gun. Omar acquired the .233 caliber Sig Sauer MCX Carbine and a Glock handgun within the last week, despite the fact that he had been interviewed by the FBI three times since 2013 due to his connection in two separate cases.

According to law enforcement, shortly before beginning his killing spree, Omar made a 911 call declaring his allegiance to the self proclaimed Islamic State. While it is unsure if there is a direct connection, ISIS recently called on all Muslims across the globe to attack western targets. Omar’s ex-wife stated that he was mentally-ill and often abusive. Co-workers described him as “extreme” in his religious beliefs.

Whether a true member of ISIS or a mentally-ill individual, the question remains the same: how did the current system fail to keep him from buying weapons?

Completely Legal Purchase

Homeland Security undersecretary John Cohen stated, "Being on the watch list is not in itself disqualifying, under law. The disqualifying elements of the investigation may be classified." In Florida, one must wait three days to purchase a handgun, however a weapon like an Sig Sauer MCX Carbine doesn’t require a permit, registration, or even a license. Florida joins Kansas, Vermont, South Dakota, Alaska, Missouri, Wyoming, Kentucky, Arizona, Mississippi, and Louisiana as states with the least restrictive gun control.

Therefore, despite the obvious (albeit possibly in hindsight) warning signs for Omar, he purchased the weapons that would later shoot over 100 people legally and through the proper channels. In fact, out of the shooters involved in mass shootings in the U.S. between 1982 and 2012, 49 purchased their weapons legally while only 12 did not (one unknown).

The Solution?

Should the United States develop new gun control measures that all states must adhere to or is there another answer? According to a study conducted by Pew Research Center in 2013, policies like a more complete background check for private and gun show sales is favored by the public.

Other widely accepted policies (where more than 50% sided) included: preventing those with mental illness from purchasing a gun, creating a federal database to track gun sales, armed security guards at schools, ban on semi-automatic weapons, ban on assault style weapons (the Sig Sauer MCX Carbine used by Omar is the apparent weapon of choice of mass killers in the U.S.), a ban on high-capacity ammunition clips, and a ban on the online purchase of ammunition. Had these policies been enacted, the chances of Omar obtaining a gun and storming the nightclub drop dramatically (along with other mass shootings).

What is your opinion? What steps, if any, does the U.S. need to make to address this growing issue within the Unites States?

 

Sources Cited

Daly, M., Miller, J., Zavadski, K., & Harris, S. (n.d.). Retrieved June 12, 2016, from http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/06/12/omar-mateen-id-d-as-orlando-killer.html

Ehrenfreund, M. (n.d.). Orlando shooting: The key things to know about about guns and mass shootings in America. Retrieved June 12, 2016, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/06/12/orlando-shooting-the-key-things-to-know-about-about-guns-and-mass-shootings-in-america/

Keneally, M. (n.d.). Orlando Shooter Legally Bought Guns Despite Previous Flags by FBI. Retrieved June 12, 2016, from http://abcnews.go.com/US/orlando-shooter-bought-guns-previous-flags-fbi/story?id=39799861

Romney, G. (2015, October 20). The 10 states with the least restrictive gun laws | Deseret News. Retrieved June 12, 2016, from http://www.deseretnews.com/top/3430/0/The-10-states-with-the-least-restrictive-gun-laws.html 

Rothwell, J. (n.d.). Orlando gunman used Sig Sauer MCX Carbine assault rifle to kill his victims - the weapon of choice for mass shooters. Retrieved June 12, 2016, from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/06/12/orlando-shooting-gunman-omar-mateen-used-Sig Sauer MCX Carbine -assault-rifle-to/

For many, the popping didn’t register as anything other than the loud bass filling the nightclub. Then, in an instant, screams ripped through the music, ushering in chaos. Bullets from 29-year-old Omar Mateen’s Sig Sauer MCX Carbine collided with those seeking safety; when the noise was silenced, 50 were left dead and another 53 critically injured.

We recently discussed nightclub violence after Denver Broncos’ Aqib Talib was shot in Dallas on June 5, and reviewed who could be held liable for such incidences. However, what occurred at the Orlando nightclub, Pulse, goes far beyond a fight between a few individuals. This was a deliberate, hate-fueled attack led by a self-proclaimed ISIS sympathizer; the worst attack on U.S. soil since 9/11, and the greatest mass shooting in U.S. history.

The Real Questions
The question we feel compelled to ask is, “How can a man such as Omar legally purchase a weapon?”

Regardless of where you come down with the Second Amendment and the right to bear arms, most of us should be able to agree that the restrictions are in place to keep such men with evil intent from purchasing a gun. Omar acquired the .233 caliber Sig Sauer MCX Carbine and a Glock handgun within the last week, despite the fact that he had been interviewed by the FBI three times since 2013 due to his connection in two separate cases.

According to law enforcement, shortly before beginning his killing spree, Omar made a 911 call declaring his allegiance to the self proclaimed Islamic State. While it is unsure if there is a direct connection, ISIS recently called on all Muslims across the globe to attack western targets. Omar’s ex-wife stated that he was mentally-ill and often abusive. Co-workers described him as “extreme” in his religious beliefs.

Whether a true member of ISIS or a mentally-ill individual, the question remains the same: how did the current system fail to keep him from buying weapons?

Completely Legal Purchase

Homeland Security undersecretary John Cohen stated, "Being on the watch list is not in itself disqualifying, under law. The disqualifying elements of the investigation may be classified." In Florida, one must wait three days to purchase a handgun, however a weapon like an Sig Sauer MCX Carbine doesn’t require a permit, registration, or even a license. Florida joins Kansas, Vermont, South Dakota, Alaska, Missouri, Wyoming, Kentucky, Arizona, Mississippi, and Louisiana as states with the least restrictive gun control.

Therefore, despite the obvious (albeit possibly in hindsight) warning signs for Omar, he purchased the weapons that would later shoot over 100 people legally and through the proper channels. In fact, out of the shooters involved in mass shootings in the U.S. between 1982 and 2012, 49 purchased their weapons legally while only 12 did not (one unknown).

The Solution?

Should the United States develop new gun control measures that all states must adhere to or is there another answer? According to a study conducted by Pew Research Center in 2013, policies like a more complete background check for private and gun show sales is favored by the public.

Other widely accepted policies (where more than 50% sided) included: preventing those with mental illness from purchasing a gun, creating a federal database to track gun sales, armed security guards at schools, ban on semi-automatic weapons, ban on assault style weapons (the Sig Sauer MCX Carbine used by Omar is the apparent weapon of choice of mass killers in the U.S.), a ban on high-capacity ammunition clips, and a ban on the online purchase of ammunition. Had these policies been enacted, the chances of Omar obtaining a gun and storming the nightclub drop dramatically (along with other mass shootings).

What is your opinion? What steps, if any, does the U.S. need to make to address this growing issue within the Unites States?

 

Sources Cited

Daly, M., Miller, J., Zavadski, K., & Harris, S. (n.d.). Retrieved June 12, 2016, from http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/06/12/omar-mateen-id-d-as-orlando-killer.html

Ehrenfreund, M. (n.d.). Orlando shooting: The key things to know about about guns and mass shootings in America. Retrieved June 12, 2016, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/06/12/orlando-shooting-the-key-things-to-know-about-about-guns-and-mass-shootings-in-america/

Keneally, M. (n.d.). Orlando Shooter Legally Bought Guns Despite Previous Flags by FBI. Retrieved June 12, 2016, from http://abcnews.go.com/US/orlando-shooter-bought-guns-previous-flags-fbi/story?id=39799861

Romney, G. (2015, October 20). The 10 states with the least restrictive gun laws | Deseret News. Retrieved June 12, 2016, from http://www.deseretnews.com/top/3430/0/The-10-states-with-the-least-restrictive-gun-laws.html 

Rothwell, J. (n.d.). Orlando gunman used Sig Sauer MCX Carbine assault rifle to kill his victims - the weapon of choice for mass shooters. Retrieved June 12, 2016, from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/06/12/orlando-shooting-gunman-omar-mateen-used-Sig Sauer MCX Carbine -assault-rifle-to/

General Motors spent a lot of time in the spotlight in 2014 for failing to correct a defect in the faulty ignition switches in their vehicles. The defect would spontaneously flip off, which cut power to air bags as well as other vital functions. Because of this, 124 people lost their lives and another 275 were injured. GM knew about the fatal issue for over a decade and chose to do nothing about it, as recalls and repairs would cause their profits and sales to take a nosedive.

They have now been forced to pay almost $600 million in settlements to the families involved in the accidents and another $575 million for other related lawsuits. The U.S. Justice Department also slapped them with a hefty $900 million fine in a criminal settlement.

HEADED FOR COURT

While most of the victims’ families have handled matters and received settlements outside of the courtroom, several hundred opted to take on the auto giant in court. The first case was highly anticipated and watchful eyes were waiting to determine if this case would prove a successful early test of the claims, signaling that GM could be beaten in court. But the case collapsed almost before it even began.

Robert Scheuer, a postal worker in Oklahoma, saw his case crumble after questions were raised about the truthfulness to his accusations that the ignition-switch defect in his Chevy Cobalt prevented his air bags from deploying during a car accident in 2014 when he hit a tree. He and his wife also claim that they lost their “dream house” because Scheuer suffered memory loss in the accident, causing him to lose the check they were planning on buying a house with.

Quickly after the trial started, an Oklahoma realtor contradicted the couple, telling GM the real reason the couple didn’t get the house was because they presented an altered check when asked to produce proof of funds. GM took that evidence to court, accusing Scheuer of check forgery, real estate fraud and perjury, forcing him to drop the case. 

CASE DISMISSED

"We said all along that each case would be decided on its own merits, and we had already started to show by strong, clear and convincing evidence to the jury that the ignition switch didn't have anything to do with Mr. Scheuer's accident or injuries," GM released in a statement. "The apparent lies the plaintiff and his wife told the jury ended the trial early, and we are pleased that the case is over without any payment whatsoever to the Mr. Scheuer."

Scheuer's attorney, Robert Hilliard, has been the leader of the attack on GM and winning this case would have laid the groundwork for his upcoming ones, but he is not discouraged. "To have any trial end in such an unexpected and unforeseen way is disappointing, especially one such as this where the concerns regarding the underlying safety of certain GM's vehicles are legitimate and real," he said. "A jury's decision regarding the existence of a defect will have to wait until the next trial." Hilliard will still bring the other cases to trial.

READY TO HELP

If you have been the victim of a car accident, whether due to a manufacturer defect or not, the attorneys of Godsey Martin, P.C., are here to get you the settlement you deserve. Call them today at 1-877-IGOTHIT or contact them online.

What It Is

Victims of violent crimes may be eligible to receive benefits from the Crime Victims' Compensation Fund. The Crime Victims’ Compensation Act was passed in 1979, effectively creating the Compensation to Victims of Crime Fund and the Crime Victims’ Compensation (CVC) Program. The fund’s main goal is to get victims to participate in the capture and prosecution of criminals, as well as provide monetary compensation for certain expenses, to those who are victims. It is a route for these victims to obtain money they need when it otherwise isn’t possible.

An example could be an automobile accident caused by a drunken driver without insurance. This fund can help alleviate some on the bills that will inevitably fall on the innocent victim. The Office of the Attorney General of Texas is responsible for heading up the program.

How It’s Funded

The program is supported financially from a number of different sources.

  • State court costs submitted for felony and misdemeanor convictions
  • Parolee supervision fees paid out at $8 a month from each offender. The offender’s parole officers are tasked with collecting these fees.
  • Jurors are given the option to donate their daily jury duty reimbursements to the fund.
  • When a victim of a crime is awarded money in a civil suit, the Attorney General is obligated to ask them to reimburse the fund for the amount they received. This is labeled as subrogation.
  • When it comes to federal convictions, the federal Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) allows the collection of fines, fees and forfeitures.
  • Courts may order offenders to repay the fund for payments made to their victims as part of restitution.

General Rules/Important Notes

Before a victim can apply for compensation from this fund, they must first have exhausted all other possible sources of payment, including their health insurance, Medicaid or Medicare if they have it, their car insurance or even Worker’s Compensation if it is offered in their state.

Crimes Covered by the Fund

Generally speaking, any crime that causes or could cause substantial bodily harm or death that is normally punishable by fines, a prison sentence or the death penalty would apply.

  • Arson;
  • Assault;
  • Homicide;
  • Kidnapping;
  • Robbery;
  • Sexual assault;
  • Other violent crimes. 
  • Vehicular crimes including: aggravated assault, criminally negligent homicide, DWI, intoxication manslaughter and intoxication assault, failure to stop and render aid, and manslaughter

Eligibility

Before filling out an application, you need to make sure you qualify and that the expenses you are seeking compensation for are included in the approved lists.

You do NOT qualify if you:

- Knowingly participated in the crime as an accomplice;

- Were incarcerated when the crime was committed;

- Submitted false info to the Attorney General.

You MAY qualify if:

  • The crime took place in Texas to a resident of Texas or the US

OR

  • The crime took place in another state or country but involved a Texas resident AND this state or country does not offer crime victim compensation benefits.
  • The crime must be reported to local law enforcement within a reasonable time period;

Who Qualifies to Receive Funds  

Here is a list of those that are eligible for funds pulled from the Texas Department of Public Safety’s website:

  • an innocent victim of crime who suffers physical and/or emotional harm or death
  • an authorized individual acting on behalf of a victim;
  • a person who legally assumes the obligations or voluntarily pays certain expenses related to the crime on behalf of the victim;
  • a dependent of a victim;
  • an immediate family member or household members related by blood or marriage who require psychiatric care or counseling as a result of the crime;
  • someone who goes to the aid of the victim or a peace officer;
  • a peace officer, fire fighter, or individual whose employment includes the duty of protecting the public.

What Expenses Qualify for Reimbursement

One thing to know before starting out is that the statue does NOT reimburse for property damage or losses that are associated with property crimes. Also be aware that those successfully completing a claim can receive funds of $50,000. Those with permanent disability may get another $75,000.

Here is the list of qualifying expenses, again straight from the DPS site:

  • medical, hospital, physical therapy or nursing care;
  • psychiatric care or counseling;
  • loss of wages due to medical treatment;
  • care of a child or a dependent;
  • loss of support;
  • funeral and burial expenses and;
  • replacement costs for clothing, bedding, or property seized as evidence or rendered unusable as a result of the investigation;
  • reasonable attorney fees for assistance in filing the Crime Victims' Compensation application and in obtaining benefits, if the claim is approved;
  • loss of wages and travel to seek medical treatment;
  • one-time relocation expenses for domestic violence victims or for those sexual assault victims attacked in their own residence.

If a victim suffers devastating injuries that leaves them with a complete and permanent disability, the fund has additional allowances for added expenses.

How to Apply

In most cases, the victim has 3 years from the date of the crime to submit a claim with the fund, but there are allowances made for more time in some cases. You can apply by calling the Crime Victim Services Division at 1-800-983-9933 or by filling out this application and mailing it in. The Office of the Attorney General can be reached This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Sources Cited:

Greg. "What You Need to Know About the Texas Crime Victims' Fund - Baumgartner Law Firm." Baumgartner Law Firm. February 29, 2016. Accessed April 20, 2016. https://baumgartnerlawyers.com/blog/what-you-need-to-know-about-the-texas-crime-victims-fund/.

"Crime Victims' Compensation." Crime Victims. Accessed April 21, 2016. https://texasattorneygeneral.gov/cvs/crime-victims-compensation.

"TxDPS - Crime Victims' Compensation." TxDPS - Crime Victims' Compensation. Accessed April 21, 2016. http://www.txdps.state.tx.us/administration/staff_support/victimservices/pages/crimevictimscompensation.htm.

 

Slip and fall accidents can happen anywhere; home, work, while shopping or dining, or taking in a movie. While most falls result in only bumps and bruises or the occasion broken bone, others can lead to disastrous results. Falls can be especially dangerous if it occurs on concrete or near protruding objects one can hit their head on. For the sake of this article, we will focus on workplace slip and fall incidents.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that over 1 million Americans will experience an injury from a slip (or trip) and fall this year while on the job, and almost 20,000 of these will end in death. Each year, about 25% of injuries reported while on the job are due to slip and falls, costing about $70 billion each year in medical bills and compensation and over 95 million lost work days.

Common Causes

Knowing when and where falls happen can help employers prevent them before they happen and arm workers with knowledge of potential hazardous areas or circumstances.

Hazardous Surfaces: This is one of the most common causes of accidents. People don’t always look at every single step they take and may not see spilled coffee or a tangled power cord. Surface/flooring hazards include:

  • Uneven and/or sloped surfaces, and transitions from one flooring type to another;
  • Wet, greasy or freshly waxed floors;
  • Sawdust on floors;
  • Mats or rugs;
  • Loose, damaged or missing flooring;
  • Cords, cables, rope, tools, etc lying on floor;
  • Irregular steps or stairs.

Weather: While we can’t control the weather, we can take some steps to minimize the damage it can do. Keeping floors and shoes clean and putting up “Caution- Wet Floor” signs during inclement weather will help. Here are common weather related issues:

  • Shoes that are wet or muddy;
  • Surfaces accumulating rainwater or mud;
  • Hail on the walking surface;
  • Sleet, ice and snow.

Improper Training: Some falls can be attributed to lack of training on an employer’s part. Uncommon surfaces require special training for employees to understand what makes a safe working environment, which may also include footwear with appropriate traction.

  • Construction scaffolding;
  • Potholes, manholes, and the like in construction;
  • Narrow tunnels or passages;
  • Ramps on docks, especially those without adequate non-stick surfaces;
  • Improper footwear for the specific job.

Common Injuries

Accidents involving falls are the leading cause of traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), accounting for over 40% of all TBIs. It’s estimated that 20-40% of those that slip and fall will experience moderate to severe injuries. Injuries include:

  • Bumps and bruises;
  • Broken bones and fractures;
  • Head trauma;
  • Spinal cord injuries;

Proving Fault

So who is responsible if you sustain an injury after a fall? If you are on property that belongs to someone else or if you are on the job, fault may lie with the property owner or employer. We all are responsible for watching where we are going and should be able to stay on our feet in most instances, but sometimes there are unavoidable pitfalls that any other person would have tripped over or slipped on. Here are some guidelines for determining fault:

Are they liable? – To hold some liable for a fall on their property it must be true that:

  1. They caused the dangerous surface, whether it is a spill or a broken tile; or
  2. They knew about it and did nothing; or
  3. It’s reasonable that they “should have known” about it as the caretaker of their property.

 

Is it reasonable? – A judge, or more likely a jury, will look at whether or not the defendant acted in a reasonable manner. Here are some ways to determine “reasonableness”.

  1. Had the issue that caused the slip and fall been an issue long enough that the owner/employer should have known? For instance, a hammer that was left on the floor within the last hour is probably not reasonable, but a step that has been broken for a month probably is.
  2. What is the regular maintenance schedule of the owner? Do they live out of town and only visit on site once a month?
  3. Was the tripping/slipping hazard there for a reason? Was it adequately labeled or not removed when it should have been?

 

Was it your own two feet? – In some circumstances, it could be your own carelessness that caused you to trip. Ask yourself these questions before meeting with an attorney or an insurance company:

  1. Were you texting or chatting with a friend? Where you running or jumping?
  2. Did you miss any warnings about the upcoming hazard?
  3. Would a cautious person have noticed the hazard and avoided it?
  4. Were you in an area you were permitted to be?


If You Need an Attorney

If you have been victim of a slip and fall accident, call Godsey Martin today at 1-877-IGOTHIT. You can speak to them about the details involving your case and get all your questions answered. Let them help you understand what your options are.

 

Sources

"Statistics | Slip and Fall - Premises Liability." Edgar Snyder. Accessed May 22, 2016. https://www.edgarsnyder.com/slip-and-fall-accidents/slip-fall-statistics.html.

Grainger, W. W. "Six Guidelines to Prevent Workplace Slips, Trips and Falls." Reliable Plant. Accessed May 21, 2016. http://www.reliableplant.com/Read/27549/Prevent-slips-trips-falls.

"Slips, Trips, Falls | Workplace Risk Assessment & Policy | Healthy Working Lives." Healthy Working Lives. November 07, 2013. Accessed May 22, 2016. http://www.healthyworkinglives.com/advice/workplace-hazards/falls#main.

"Slip and Fall: Injury Statistics | Lawfirms.com." Lawfirms.com. Accessed May 22, 2016. http://www.lawfirms.com/resources/personal-injury/slip-and-fall-accident/slip-and-fall-accidents.htm.

Matthews, Joseph. "Slip and Fall Accidents: Proving Fault | Nolo.com." Nolo. Accessed May 21, 2016. http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/slip-fall-accidents-proving-fault-29845.html.

""slip, Trip, and Fall Prevention Experts"" NFSI RSS. Accessed May 22, 2016. https://nfsi.org/nfsi-research/quick-facts/.

 

It has been recommended by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) that side underride guards be mandatory on trailers with a gross vehicle weight (GVW) over 10,000 lbs.

A Deadly Trend

Earlier this spring, the NTSB pressed the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to require guards on big trucks. Adding these underride guards will theoretically prevent passenger cars from colliding under 18-wheelers.  It is also being recommended by the NTSB that the NHTSA require highway tractors with a GVW above 26,000 lbs. to have side underride guards.

Between 2005 and 2009, an estimated 43,629 vehicles crashed into the sides of the trailers of 18-wheelers, according to police reports. A report issued by the NHTSA stated that side impacts made up 15% of fatal two-vehicle collisions between 18-wheelers and passenger vehicles in 2011.  Further data from the NTSB states that wrecks involving passenger vehicle with the sides of tractor-trailers led to over 15,000 injuries between 2001-2003.

New Regulations

The NTSB is also seeking modifications to existing rear underride regulations.  They have concluded that rear underride related injuries could be lowered by making modifications to the design of the guard.

Furthermore, NTSB believes that NHTSA should include trailer VIN and the model year to the Fatality Analysis Reporting System database for trailers with GVWRs over 10,000 pounds. 

NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman believes it is important for the police reports to track further information about what trailers were involved in the accident as opposed to just information about the passenger vehicle. At present, this information isn’t required. Adding the trailer’s VIN can help easily identify the trailer’s manufacturer, model year, and other important features.

Better Information, Safer Roadways
More detailed information will help the NTSB collect better data to help track injuries and fatalities on the state and national level.  Thus, one could more easily identify threats connected with a trailer’s designs and then assess if the safety regulations in place are efficient or are in need of changing.

For example, reflectors on the back of a trailer are not required and thus they pose a threat whether driving down the road or parker off on the shoulder. Having the appropriate data, the NTSB could determine how many accidents were caused but that issue.

Currently, rear underride guards are mandatory for new tractor-trailer trucks (though, many believe that the guards that are being used need to be upgraded in design as they have failed in keeping cars from sliding underneath the trailer). The The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) guesstimates that just 18 percent of new single unit trucks are set with rear impact guards which fall in line with the would-be regulation. The new regulations requires 59% of newly manufactured single-unit trailers to come standard with rear impact guards above what they’re currently produced with.

Currently, most trucking companies are not required to add them onto their older trucks (it isn’t cost effective for them). Side underride guards are not required at this time. Side underride guards are not required at all.

Promising Tests out of Canada

American safety experts are praising a Canadian-made transport trailer for guarding a vehicle’s occupants as it crashed into the back end of a trailer.

Designed by Manac and Trainmobile out of Quebec, their trailers were the only ones to pass all three of the rear underrider’s tests as directed by the Virginia-based Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

American trailers developed to tougher Canadian standards failed the tests. This quickly led to the IIHS to calling for standards to match those of the Manac trailers more closely. Dubbed the Mansfield bars, the underrider guard transfers the construction of the trailer from deck height down to a level well suited for cars.

Designed for Safety
Most big trucks have been designed to deal with front-end accidents. Most will crush and absorb the blunt of the impact in order to protect the passenger. Should a vehicle crash into the underride guard, the front of the vehicle will crush just as it would in any other vehicle-to-vehicle accident. This isn’t to say that there wouldn’t be injuries, but it should cut down on the severity of the injuries suffered and possibly even save lives altogether.

However, there is the possibility that the guard could move during the wreck, still allowing the vehicle to slam up underneath the trailer.

The IIHS tested the bars in full-width crashes, 50% overlap (where the end of the bar is at the center of the car) and at 30% overlap, the toughest standard. (The IIHS chose 30% because that was the minimum amount of impact that could still result in the trailer striking the head of the occupant on the side of impact). All tests used a 2010 Chevrolet Malibu due to it being a Top Safety Pick. This helps ensure that any defects are in the trailer’s design instead of the vehicle itself.

All trailers tested passed the full-width impact, adequately transferring the force of the accident to the structure of the trailer and allowing the cars crush zones to properly protect the passengers. All but one, those build by Vanguard, passed the 50% overlap test and all but the Manac trailers failed the 30% overlap test.

The usual failure stemmed from the horizontal bars that bent outside the vertical supports or those where the vertical support on the side of impact failed.

Manac believes that changes to current trucks could be made for relatively cheap (the guard cost around $20). In addition, after an accident, tests show that the underride guard is generally the only part needing repairs. This will greatly help save money in repairs. 

A Shared Responsibility
Even with safety equipment in place and new regulations for truck drivers, it is important that passenger vehicle drivers share the road with 18-wheelers. Keep in mind that a big truck cannot speed up nor (especially) slow down as quickly as a car, so you need to adjust accordingly.

All drivers need to practice alert driving on the roadways, being sure to put away their cell phones and dealing accordingly with other distractions such as changing settings in your vehicle, talking intensely with other passengers, driving while drowsy, and so forth. Many accidents can be avoided when safe driving practices are adopted.

Attorneys who will Help You

But, as it goes in life, even the safest drivers may find themselves in the midst of a nightmare that is a car accident. Wrecks involving big trucks are even worse and often result in the server injury or death of a loved one. Emotions and stress can run high, and you may feel at a loss as to how to proceed.

Brian Mincher and Ryan Rogers of Godsey Martin law firm are ready to pick you back up and set you on the road to recovery. With their years of experience, they will fight for you to make sure you receive the monetary compensation you’re entitled to receive. 

Call them today at 877-IGOTHIT or fill out their free case evaluation form online.

 

When it comes to personal injury claims, having the most up-to-date documentation available is vita. This includes having copies of your medical records, one of the at some point in your personal injury claim, you'll have to request copies of your medical records. They are the foundation of your claim. Your medical records are the most important evidence you can get to back up your demand for settlement. 

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