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Research Discovers a Way to Prevent Infections in Patients with Spinal Cord Injuries

A new study in Nature Neuroscience has identified why the immune system tends to shut down in patients with spinal cord injuries, opening them up to potentially deadly infections.

Led by the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, the eight-year, multi-site study found that nerve pathways between the spinal cord and the adrenal glands, along with a hormone-mediated link, contribute to abnormally low white blood cells and spontaneous pneumonia. “This could lead to new treatments to prevent or reduce infections in patients suffering with these injuries without antibiotics, thereby reducing disability and mortality,” said principal investigator Dr. Jan M. Schwab, Ohio State Neurological Institute.

If you have a loved one with a spinal cord injury that you think may have come from someone else’s negligence, we welcome you to contact us online or call us at 215-751-0100.

How Dangerous Are Pennsylvania Amusement Rides?

After an Ohio State Fair ride recently fell apart in midair, a Pennsylvania journalist took a deeper look at the safety of rides in the Commonwealth. His findings, published in the Morning Call, revealed exactly how little information is publicly available.

In Pennsylvania, there are 1,400+ amusement ride inspectors certified by the state Department of Agriculture. Most inspectors are private, however, and evaluate rides at the amusement parks or carnivals where they work. Despite that fact, the system seems to be working, noted industry officials. “State data from last year show six of 496 reportable injuries on Pennsylvania amusement attractions were related to mechanical issues. The others were attributed to rider behavior, operator error or a combination.”

Inspections are scheduled every 30 days or when a portable ride is reassembled. Yet the Department of Agriculture website does not provide details, only the inspection date. Plans are to redesign the site to be able to publish additional information. In the meantime, concerned consumers can look for a placard displayed at the ride with the date of the last inspection. Consumers also can seek records from their state regulator through public record laws.

If you or a loved one has been injured on an amusement ride, it’s best to consult an attorney who is experienced in that area of the law. Shaffer & Gaier is happy to schedule a free, private consultation anytime. Call 215-751-0100 or send us a meeting request through our website.

PA Nursing Home Fines Jump in 2017

The Pennsylvania Department of Health is cracking down on nursing home safety, as evidenced by a jump in fines, reported Lancaster Online. State records show 108 penalties and $774,750 in fines for roughly the first half of 2017, as compared to 18 penalties and $65,750 in fines for all of 2014. The increased oversight is part of a philosophical shift that the department announced in October 2016.

The department has been taking anonymous complaints and visiting nursing homes more frequently. Offenses range from technical violations for water that’s too hot to more serious penalties where inadequate care resulted in harm to residents, and sometimes death.

If you suspect an elderly loved one in a nursing home may be the victim of neglect, talk to an experienced elder injury attorney. Contact us online or call 215-751-0100 so we can talk about your legal options.

Injured PA Workers May Receive More Benefits

A recent ruling by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court changed how injured workers are evaluated, opening the way for extended workers’ compensation benefits. “The court’s decision eliminated the practice of using the American Medical Association guidelines to place a cap on benefits paid out to severely injured workers,” reported the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Until now, workers’ compensation law allowed companies to revisit injuries two years later and evaluate them as a percentage based on the AMA guidelines. If an injury fell below the 50 percent threshold, companies could reduce or cap the payments.

It’s important to note that a work injury doesn’t always fall solely within the realm of workers’ compensation benefits: if the injury happened because of a defective product/equipment or someone’s negligence, you could receive damage awards for medical costs, missed work or pain and suffering.

At Shaffer & Gaier, consultations are always free. Contact us online or call 215-751-0100, and we’ll discuss the details of your case.

U.S. Department of Labor Reports on PA Fatal Work Injuries in Pennsylvania

The United States Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics has released a report on fatal work injuries in Pennsylvania in 2015. Overall, the number of work-related deaths decreased from 179 in 2014 to 173 in 2015. Nationwide, that number totaled 4,836.2015 Fatal Work Injuries

Each year, the study breaks down those numbers by type of incident (transportation-related, falls/slips/trips, equipment contact, violence, or “other”), type of industry, worker occupation and whether the worker was full-time or contracted. The figures are also broken down by sex, race and age.

Overall, the private construction business saw the highest number of industry-related fatalities in Pennsylvania (35), with falls, slips or trips being the major cause. Transportation/material moving and construction/extraction had the highest number of occupational-classified fatalities at 50 and 42, respectively. Pennsylvania worker deaths in 2015 included 33 individuals who were classified as contract workers. 92% of work-related deaths in PA were males, 80% were white/non-Hispanic workers, and 60% of the deaths were 25-54 years old.

In some cases, work-related deaths can be the subject of a lawsuit if it involved negligence or a product defect. To schedule a free, private meeting with an experienced Pennsylvania work injury attorney, call us anytime at 855-289-1660 or e-mail us.

New Foreclosure Firms Getting a Foothold

Foreclosure Home

The worst of the financial crisis is over and the number of foreclosures is down sharply from only a few years ago, yet many of the mortgage firms, however, remain the same — Wells Fargo, Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase & Fannie Mae. The latest rankings, however, now include several smaller firms including Lone Star Funds, Penny Mac, Carrington (some of these firms were not even in existence when the crisis started in 2007).

Many of these newer firms bought soured mortgages at steep discounts and are now looking to profit by restructuring the loan terms and trying to get the borrowers to repay. And generally, the smaller firms have a better ability to modify loans because they are more flexible with less investor requirements. The new smaller firms are taking some risks that bigger banks are no longer interested in taking, but when the homeowner can’t repay the loan or qualify for a modification, the new firms and/or their loan servicers foreclose in more aggressive ways than the older, larger foreclosure firms. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are looking to sell thousands of distressed mortgages within the next year or two, and while the large banks still own the majority of these mortgages, count on the smaller firms to continue to catch up to them.

Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit—Actual Losses

Personal InjuryYou’ve been hurt in an accident and you’ve filed a lawsuit. You’ve succeeded in showing that the defendant’s conduct fell below the expected standard of care, and you’ve also met the dual requirements of actual cause and proximate cause. But you’re still not home. To recover monetary compensation, you still need to show that you sustained actual losses because of the wrongful acts of the defendant.

What is Actual Injury?

You may be saying, “hey, wait a minute, I showed that the defendant engaged in wrongful conduct and I showed that it caused damage to something I own or caused me injury. What more do I need to show?” In determining whether you have a right to damages, the court will want to ask a few questions:

  • Did you actually incur any out-of-pocket expenses, or was everything paid for by insurance companies?—You can’t file a claim for lost wages if you received full reimbursement or payment of wages. You can’t seek damages for medical expenses that were either paid by the insurance company or reimbursed to you. If your insurance company covers all your out-of-pocket expenses, they may have a claim against the defendant for those costs, but you don’t—you can’t recover twice for the same loss.
  • Did you suffer pain or physical discomfort?—These types of injuries are not normally covered by insurance, so here’s a place where you may actually be entitled to damages.
  • Did you have to stop doing things you love?—Did you play tennis or golf before the accident, but can’t now because of the pain? Was there any other activity you had to give up because of the accident?
  • Have you lost the ability to be intimate with a spouse or partner, or to enjoy the companionship of family members?

Contact Us

To schedule a private meeting with an experienced personal injury attorney, call our foreclosure hotline at 855-289-1660 or e-mail us. Evening and weekend meetings can be arranged upon request. We will travel to your home, if necessary, to meet with you.

Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit–Causation

car hits manIn an earlier blog, we discussed the initial requirement of a personal injury lawsuit, that the injured party demonstrate that the defendant breached the duty to act as a reasonable person would. Once you’ve successfully shown that the defendant’s level of care was below that expected by a reasonable person, you must next show that the failure caused  an injury.

Causation Defined

Under the common law, there are two types of causation, both of which must be shown for a personal injury claim to succeed: actual cause and proximate cause.

Actual, or “but for” cause, is the simplest to show. To meet this burden, you need only show that, in the absence of the defendant’s breach of the duty of care, the accident would not have happened and the injury would not have been suffered. Actual cause can apply to direct losses—a person runs a red light and hits your car—the property damage to your car is a direct result of the breach. It can also, however, apply to indirect, or consequential, injuries. Suppose, in the accident above, the collision causes you to lose control of your car and careen into an ice cream store, causing loss of power and the ultimate loss of $10,000 worth of ice cream—running the red light was the actual cause.

But there’s another causal requirement before you can recover compensation—you must show proximate cause. Essentially, this requires that you show that the damages or losses suffered were reasonably foreseeable based on your negligence. That question is a question for the jury, so ultimately jurors will have to determine if there was proximate cause.

Even though you’ve established a breach of the standard of care, and met the causation requirements, you must still show that you suffered actual injury.

Contact the Lawyers at Shaffer & Gaier, L.L.C.

For a free initial consultation, send us an e-mail or call us in Philadelphia at 215-751-0100, or in New Jersey at 856-429-0970. You can also reach our foreclosure hotline at 855-289-1660. Evening and weekend meetings can be arranged upon request. We will travel to your home, if necessary, to meet with you.

Expiration of Popular Mortgage Modification Program, HAMP

Application for Mortgage Loan Modification

The Federal Government allowed the nation’s primary mortgage modification program, HAMP, to expire on December 31, 2016. The Home Affordable Modification Program, or HAMP, was introduced in 2009 to respond to the sub-prime mortgage crisis and it provided targeted aid to homeowners who met certain criteria. The primary eligibility requirements were that the loan needed to be originated before January 1, 2009, borrowers needed to document their income, suffer a financial hardship and the debt-to-income ratio needed to fall in the 30-35% range.

HAMP was uniformly used by most of the big banks and servicers and my office worked with more than a dozen of these banks and servicers to secure modifications for hundreds of our clients. While frustrating at times because of institutional bureaucracy, modifications were accomplished in a variety of ways, including through interest rate reduction, fixing the interest rate, reducing mortgage principal and/or forebearance and/or extending the term of the loan. HAMP was beneficial in that it provided clear and concise guidelines and included incentives for both the banks and the homeowners.

Neither Congress or Regulators have yet to put forth a replacement for HAMP. This is worrisome because it means that each bank or servicer is free to use and set their own guidelines. While there will be some period of uncertainty during this transition, our office will be working with homeowners and dealing with each bank or servicer’s specific and particular requirements.

Leading Reverse Mortgage Lenders Fined for Deceptive Practices

Mortgage

The Consumer Protection Financial Bureau fined the 3 leading reverse mortgage lenders in January, 2017 for using deceptive advertising to sell reverse mortgages. The fines totaled $800k and the bureau ordered the company to stop using misleading ads, some of which dated back to early 2012.

A reverse mortgage is a type pf loan that is usually targeted towards older Americans. A reverse mortgage can be a good tool for a homeowner who expects to remain in the home for many years and continue to pay the taxes and insurance but as borrowers age, these payments can become surprisingly unaffordable. These television and print ads, however, are often marketed featuring reassuring celebrity spokesmen (Fred Thompson/ Tom Selleck). Revere mortgages ae loans that carry interest and fees and can look deceptively alluring but they usually are fraught with dangerous details. Reverse mortgages let borrowers, 62 or older, draw on the equity in their homes, and they can be useful for home owners who have little in retirement savings but have substantial equity. Borrowers can receive the funds in lump-sums, monthly payments or lines of credit and repayment is deferred until the borrower dies, moves out or sells the home.

In the advertisements, the companies promoted the loans as risk free, but the homeowners can easily default on these loans and lose the homes in foreclosure if they fail to make certain payments like property taxes, insurance or maintenance. That is what the CPFB was targeting when it levied these fines. The CFPB said that the companies were tricking consumers into thinking that they could never lose their homes through a reverse mortgage, a claim that the CFPB asserts is patently untrue. The companies did not admit or deny the allegations but they paid the fines.

Since its peak in 2009 the use of reverse mortgages has fallen dramatically. Only about 49,000 reverse mortgages were made between September 2015 and September 2016.

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