About Richard Rizk

“Helping Everyday People, Every Day” is not just a slogan. It is my passion. I seek justice for you, an injured and/or disabled person facing a powerful insurance company or employer. Why? Because helping folks in claim distress makes best use of my unique blend of insurance defense and inside claim handling experience. I worked for insurance companies or their law firms from 1990 to 2001. As a result, I know insurers and employers have great power and sometimes abuse that power. I now work to prevent that from happening. I opened Rizk Law Offices in 2002. I have a big heart and insights only a former insurance attorney can have. Call me if you think I might be able to help you. – Richard H. Rizk

Carriers Avoid Recall Process to Keep Trucks on the Road

NHTSA logo

 

Despite relatively easy reporting and repair or replacement of a defective vehicle or part at no cost, some truck fleets delay reporting and fixing defects to avoid lost revenue from sidelined equipment.

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) depends on truck fleets to report a dangerous vehicle manufacturing or design defect, so that it can investigate and issue a recall if necessary. However, while about 235 million vehicles in the U.S. generate about 45,000 complaints a year to NHTSA, 9 million trucks only generate 600 calls.

NHTSA Makes Reporting Truck Defects Easier

In an effort to streamline the reporting process, NHTSA offers four ways carriers can report a problem.

Telephone

The Vehicle Safety Hotline can be reached at 888-327-4236 from anywhere in the United States, including the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, where representatives are on duty from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. EST Monday through Friday.

Mail

A letter can be sent describing the problem with a phone number, so the person reporting can be reached for more information. NHTSA can also send a postage-paid complaint form to provide information about the complaint. Carriers can call 888-327-4236 to obtain the form.

All correspondence can be sent to:

NHTSA Office of Defects Investigation (NEF-100) West Building 1200 New Jersey Avenue S.E. Washington, DC 20590

Internet

Electronically report a problem by visiting www.safertruck.gov.

Fax

Fax a letter or complaint form to: 202-366-1767.

NHTSA’s Investigative Recall Process

After NHTSA receives a certain number of complaints on any specific line of vehicles, tires or equipment that has a potential for causing a risk to safety, it opens an investigation. During that investigation, investigators perform a detailed technical analysis of the issue using all available information.

The investigation includes, but is not limited to, service bulletins, consumer complaints, warranty claims, crash and injury data, part sales, inspections, tests, surveys and other documents prepared by the manufacturers.

NHTSA’s investigative process consists of:

  • A review of customer complaints
  • An analysis of any petitions calling for defect investigations and/or reviews of safety-related recalls
  • The investigation of alleged safety defects
  • An investigation into the effectiveness of safety recalls

If NHTSA’s analysis of the data indicates a safety defect exists, the manufacturer must fix it at no charge to the vehicle’s owner. A potential problem can be anything related to electronics or mechanical equipment. A recall may also be issued when a vehicle is not in compliance with a motor vehicle safety standard.

By |May 22nd, 2017|Truck Crashes|

What Determines the Cost of a Traumatic Brain Injury?

A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a life-altering and costly event. Those who have had severe or repeated traumatic brain injuries may have long-lasting problems with movement, learning, or speaking, which require full initial and ongoing assessment and care. Due to the expense of obtaining assessment, evaluation, and ongoing treatment of these cases, high-dollar verdicts in traumatic brain injury (TBI) cases can reach the six- and seven-figure level.

Making the Case for TBI Reimbursement

To prepare for negotiation with defendants and insurers in court or at settlement, a plaintiff’s lawyer receiving a TBI case must produce a Cost of Future Care report, also called a Future Care Assessment or a Life Care Plan to determine the limitations and losses of the client-patient. The Cost of Future Care report considers the severity of the TBI which has been established through assessment tests, and legal reports, medical opinions and technical accident details. To produce a long term needs analysis, the lawyer then researches and consults with relevant experts regarding the client’s prognosis.

Screening and Assessment to Determine Extent of TBI Injury

A doctor initially examining a TBI patient will ask questions to test the patient’s ability to pay attention, learn, remember and solve problems, and will check the patient’s reflexes, strength, balance, coordination and sensation. The doctor may also order imaging tests, such as a CT scan or an MRI to visually assess damage. Periodic, ongoing assessment for months or longer of those with a TBI is important to monitor responses to rehabilitation and to life after the injury.

Once a diagnosis of traumatic brain injury has been established, further screening assessments are performed to evaluate the extent of damage and assist in establishing a comprehensive treatment plan. Screening is conducted by a speech-language pathologist, audiologist, or other professionals.

A speech-language pathologist tests a TBI patient’s speech, language, communication, and swallowing. The speech-language pathologist may also perform a hearing screening. If the patient shows hearing loss, an audiologist may be added to the screening team to further assess hearing loss.

Since depression can be a consequence of neurological damage or part of post-traumatic stress disorder, which often accompanies a TBI, if signs and symptoms of depression are present or suspected, the patient is referred to a neuropsychologist, clinical psychologist, or psychiatrist for further assessment.

By |May 20th, 2017|Brain Injury|

Trucking Companies on the Hook for Big Rig Brake Failure

While most truck drivers are independent contractors that contract themselves out on a job-by-job basis, others are employed by trucking or shipping companies. In the event of a trucking accident, under legal theory known as “vicarious liability,” a company that employs a truck driver involved in an accident can be held liable for the accident as long as the driver was acting within the course and scope of his or her employment at the time of the accident.

Fatal Consequences of Trucking Company Policies

Over the past two decades, the number of truck accidents has increased by 20%. Even though large trucks are only responsible for 3% of injury-causing motor vehicle accidents, trucking accidents typically cause much greater harm than ordinary traffic accidents due to the large size and heavy weight of most big rigs.

If the equipment on a truck doesn’t work properly, it doesn’t matter how safe the driver is, and if one of the parts breaks down, the result can be catastrophic.

Most mechanical causes of truck accidents are due to failure to properly maintain equipment. In the rush to get the load out and on the road, trucking companies often sacrifice safety by ignoring proper maintenance of vehicles.

Big Rig Brake Failure Due to Inadequate Maintenance

Due to its mass and weight, a fully-loaded big rig takes almost twice as long to stop as a lighter vehicle, making braking one of its most important functions. Big rig brake systems require regular inspection and maintenance. The entire brake system includes an engine-mounted air compressor, numerous lines and valves, several tanks, and the actuating units at each wheel. Especially important and in almost universal use are the “S” cam drum brakes, with adjustment requirements that are critical for optimal brake operation.

Although federal trucking laws dictate that drivers and trucking companies should know about the condition of their brakes at all times, in the endless rush to make a delivery, comprehensive tractor-trailer brake maintenance is frequently ignored.

Removing or Depowering Front Brakes

To minimize wear on tires and brakes and avoid replacement costs, trucking companies often depower or remove the front brakes. Depowering and removing the front brakes is a dangerous way to decrease operating costs.

To make a quick stop, a driver must then rely on the brakes of the trailer and downshifting to stop or slow the vehicle, making the truck more likely to jackknife. Over time, those brakes tend to fail, overheat, or malfunction.

By |May 12th, 2017|Truck Crashes|

Who Is At Fault When Improperly-loaded Cargo Causes Truck Accidents?

Improperly-load Truck Cargo

An improperly balanced load is a leading cause of death among truck drivers. While it is common to blame the driver in an accident, even the safest, most professional driver cannot control a truck that is overloaded or improperly balanced and tied down.

Truckers are paid for each mile they drive, and the trucking companies they work for charge their customers by the mile, so both truck driver and company want to move the freight out as quickly as possible. Safety is often sacrificed as trucks are carelessly loaded.

When an accident occurs, trucking companies are on the hook for damage caused by their employees. They are responsible for hiring and training the safest workers, but with an extremely high employee turnover rate, the men and women who load the trucks are often under-trained, poorly-supervised, or new to the industry.

Poorly-secured Truck Cargo a Danger to All Motorists

Unsecured cargo in a traditional closed trailer can push through the back door or slide out the back of a flatbed trailer. As a truck twists and turns, tons of unsecured freight can shift, causing the truck to overturn.

Unbalanced cargo that is heavier on one side, even when tied down securely, can cause a truck to tip over. The driver will not know this is happening and will be unable react in time to prevent an accident.

Even securely tied-down loads are a hazard to passing motorists when they extend out from either side of open, flatbed trailers without walls or roofs.

Trucking Companies Share Liability with Third Party Loaders

When trucking companies do not have the proper equipment and expertise available to keep cargo secure, they will outsource the loading to businesses with the manpower and experience to tie down large loads. When cargo shifts or falls out of a truck causing an accident, the trucking company will be responsible, but the loading company will also be at least partially liable in a civil suit.

By |May 6th, 2017|Truck Crashes|

How Forced Arbitration Can Ruin your PI Claim

It wasn’t very long ago that General Mills — manufacturer of dozens of familiar food brands such as Cheerios, Betty Crocker and Pillsbury — raised hell when it changed the legal terms on its website requiring all disputes related to the purchase or use of any of its products to go through mandatory arbitration for resolutions. Consumers were outraged that engaging with the company online– whether by using their website, joining their online community, subscribing to email newsletters, or even downloading a coupon– could make them lose their right to sue General Mills for any future wrongdoing.

After copious pressure, General Mills caved. They reversed their position, but still hundreds of large corporations are subjecting consumers to forced arbitration in their terms and conditions. Clauses are even present in employment contracts.

What is Forced Arbitration?

Arbitration is an alternative method of resolving legal disputes in which two or more parties present their sides of a complaint to a “neutral third party” or “neutral panel” outside of a courtroom. There is no judge or jury; it is this “neutral” party who then decides, after hearing both sides, what the proper course of action should be. There is also no way to appeal the decision reached.

Many cases of arbitration involve parties that all mutually agreed to the arbitration. It is increasingly common for personal injury complaints to be resolved this way; it is just one of several avenues you can take to resolve your case, provided you are given the option.

Forced arbitration clauses are present in the fine print of contracts for everything from car loans and student loans to leases, credit cards, checking accounts, insurance contracts, and even nursing home agreements. If you have ever purchased on Amazon, Groupon, paid a Netflix subscription or obtained cell phone service through any of the big providers, you have signed an arbitration clause and may not even know it.

Effects on Consumers

Proponents of arbitration always try to spin it as a low-cost, informal alternative to lawsuits. They purposely mislead consumers by emphasizing there is no requirement for their representation by an attorney. Surely, a company like General Mills could afford to and would bring their own attorneys to arbitration had they

By |April 28th, 2017|Elder Abuse, Personal Injury, Protecting Oregonians|

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly: Portland’s Bike-share Program

By now, you may be familiar with the ubiquitous red-orange bikes around town. They are the meat of Portland’s Nike-sponsored bike-share program, Biketown. The program officially launched nearly a year ago in June 2016 after several years of development and logistical setbacks.

Portland’s Struggle to Acquire Biketown

Portland has long held the reputation of being a bike-friendly city. In fact, it was one of the first cities in the U.S. to brainstorm of some type of bike-share program. Way back in 1994, the city launched the Yellow Bike Project in an attempt to model Amsterdam’s free community bike program. This ended up in disaster. The city teamed up with a nonprofit organization to release free bikes to whoever could use one, with only the honor system to protect them. Bikes were quickly vandalized or stolen.

In 2006, the city requested a municipal bike-share program proposal. This request was canceled two years later to dedicate more time to analyzing logistics. In 2011, activists from Bicycle Transportation Alliance encouraged the project’s revival. Further unfortunate events ensued. It took another two years for federal funds to disperse as financial obstacles struck the bike-share industry.

In 2014, Bikeshare Holdings purchased Alta Bicycle Share, the company the city had selected to operate its program. Later that year, the company’s major bike supplier filed for bankruptcy.

Alas, some light appeared at the end of the tunnel when in 2015, PBOT’s new director, who had worked on launching bike-shares in DC and Chicago, was determined to launch whether or not a sponsor was involved. By 2016, Portland struck a deal with Nike, allowing the program they were developing with Motivate, the updated Alta Bicycle Share operator, to expand it.

For all the setbacks, the program has seen a significant amount of use since it finally launched last year. Let’s take a closer look.

The Good

Biketown Portland is a relatively cost-effective bike-share program that contains more smart bikes than any other city bike-share. The technology to manage the program is less expensive than traditional systems that Motivate has employed in other cities. This is good news for taxpayers considering the program is publicly funded.

They aren’t called “smart bikes” for nothing. Each Biketown bike is equipped with GPS tracking and the

By |April 24th, 2017|Bicycle Accidents|

Studies Show Soccer Hits Cause Traumatic Brain Injury

Awareness of the link between concussions in sports activities began when former football players committed suicide after suffering the effects of traumatic brain injury on the field. New data shows that soccer players are also at high risk for traumatic brain injury.

Hockey, lacrosse, boxing, baseball, skateboarding, skiing, and horseback riding expose players to head injury, but soccer players are at greater risk of suffering degenerative damage, due to the number of repeated hits to the head.

Whether in practice games or competition, soccer players who frequently “head” the ball are three times more likely to have concussion symptoms than players who don’t experience large numbers of headers, according to a study published in the journal Neurology. When a bump or jolt to the head or a hit to the body causes the head and brain to move rapidly back and forth, the brain bounces against the inside of the skull. Soccer players routinely experience a large number of head-to-head collisions, head-to-knee collisions, and head-to-field collisions on the field, with the potential for repetitive concussions.

Research Reveals Brain Damage from Soccer Heading and Collisions

Researchers from the University College London and Britain’s National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery studied 14 brains of former soccer players who developed dementia and had signs of Alzheimer’s disease. Of those 14 studied, 4 (29 percent) had chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) pathology, a consequence of repeated impacts to the brain, including heading the ball and concussion from head-to-head collisions. A previous study of 268 brains from the general population in Britain found a far lower CTE detection rate of only 12 percent. Earlier studies, where researchers compared soccer players to swimmers showed that swimmers’ brains looked perfectly normal while soccer players’ brains had abnormalities in the white matter fiber tracts that carry messages throughout the brain. If the brain is violently shaken enough, there tends to be disruption of those fiber tracts. Another study from Purdue University found that heading of goal kicks and hard shots are as damaging as helmet-to-helmet impact in football.

When Is Concussion More Likely to Occur

A number of biological factors determine whether or not a hit to the head will lead to a concussion:

  • How many concussions a person has had before
  • How severe those previous concussions were and how close together they occurred
  • Neck strength (a strong neck supporting the head reduces the chance of concussion)
  • Hydration status (if you are dehydrated you are more likely to have a concussion)
  • Gender (women are more easily concussed than men)
  • Age (it is easier to concuss at an earlier age than at an adult age and recovery is slower)

Myelin that coats white matter fibers carrying brain messages is not as thick and strong in youngsters as in adults. Youngsters also have bigger heads in proportion to their bodies with very weak necks, compared to adults, giving them a bobblehead-doll effect that tends to cause damage.

By |April 24th, 2017|Brain Injury|

Can Microwaves Be Used to Diagnose Bleeding from TBI?

Stroke-detecting technology using microwaves shows promise in detecting intracranial bleeding from traumatic brain injury. 

Treatment for severe traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) characterized by bleeding in the brain (intracranial) requires opening the skull to release pressure and remove clotted blood, called a hematoma. The survival rate is only ten percent if the hematoma is not removed within four hours. Getting a patient with an intracranial hematoma to a neurosurgical center with radiology facilities for a CT scan in the shortest amount of time then becomes a matter of life and death.

“It’s not so much an issue of being able to do more for them (TBI patients) pre-hospital wise, it’s a question of triage, of transporting them to the right hospital, and that’s a huge problem,” said Mikal Elam, chair of clinical neurophysiology at the University of Gothenburg.

Stroke Detecting Device May Detect Hematoma from TBI

The goal has been to find a portable device to detect bleeding from TBI at low cost to convey diagnostic information in a fast, non-invasive, and safe manner. Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden are now considering applying an already existing, light-weight (under 10 pounds), portable stroke-detecting device called a Strokefinder to quickly diagnose intracranial bleeding at the site of a traumatic brain injury.

Built by Medfield Diagnostics, the Strokefinder is a tool already used to differentiate between strokes without a clot blocking blood flow and those that involve bleeding. Medfield is collaborating with Chalmers’ and Gothenburg’s Sahlgrenska University Hospital on projects featuring the Strokefinder, believing doctors there would have a better idea of what they need than engineers at the company.

Here’s How It Works

The Strokefinder device a patient’s head is placed inside has eight microwave antennas on it, each one firing a small amount of microwave radiation through the brain (between 1/100th and 1/10th what you receive from a cell phone conversation), while the other antennas pick it up. The process is repeated at several different frequencies. The microwaves quietly progress through the tissue in different ways, depending on the consistency of the tissue, and are then filtered via an algorithm instead of an image, to enable the hematoma to stand out as either a stroke or a TBI. The patient can’t feel it working, and the entire process takes only 45 seconds. Once a hematoma is detected, the patient can be quickly transported to the correct hospital with a neurosurgical center.

By |April 21st, 2017|Brain Injury|

Oregon’s Hidden Senior Care Abuses

One of the most troubling decisions you may face in your lifetime is deciding whether or not a parent or senior relative should be placed in the care of a nursing home. In many cases, families do not have a choice as the health of their relatives depends upon a continuous cycle of care by doctors and nurses. One would hope that the caregivers and other personnel at these facilities are fully vetted, trained, morally noble and responsible individuals, eager to provide their best care and peace of mind to the families who rely on them. Unfortunately, with the number of abuse cases we see here at Rizklaw, this isn’t always the case.

Misleading Records

The number of incidents of senior care abuse is likely higher than anyone assumes, but we don’t have reliable information to draw from. There is no national database to keep track of abuse complaints, and agencies at the state level do a poor job. Most agencies dedicated to conducting investigations and filing reports are severely underfunded and understaffed.

What’s worse? In Oregon, the state’s taxpayer-funded website for consumers researching care facilities omitted nearly 8,000 substantiated abuse complaints against senior care centers. That’s 60% of all complaints filed. Complaints ranging from serious medical concerns like a fractured hip or medication mixups to complaints filed about valuables gone missing were deleted from the website, misleading consumers looking to place their relatives in the 600+ long-term care facilities throughout the state. Record of wrongful death due to negligence were also missing.

What little data remains on the website includes excruciatingly vague descriptions, such as “inadequate hygiene” or “exposed to potential harm.” In one instance, a resident of a northeast Portland facility fell in the middle of the night and started to bleed from the head. Rather than call upon a nurse to evaluate the situation more closely, the resident was placed back in bed by the caregiver on duty. The next day, the same resident complained of pain. It was discovered that the resident had suffered a fractured hip. After all this, the report online simply stated the outcome of the complaint as “unreasonable discomfort.”

If you are looking to place your parents in a facility, would “unreasonable discomfort” be enough

By |April 21st, 2017|Protecting Oregonians|

Update on Youth Sports Concussion State Laws

Since Washington State passed the Zachery Lystedt law in 2009, each state has enacted legislation to protect young athletes from the risks associated with concussion in sport.

On October 2006, 13-year old Zachery Lystedt collapsed from a traumatic brain injury when he was allowed back into the game just fifteen minutes after suffering from a concussion and then spent months in a coma followed by years of rehabilitation. As a result of that event, Washington State enacted the first youth sports concussion safety law to address management in youth athletics, called the Zachery Lystedt law.

The key provisions of the Zachery Lystedt law are:

  • School districts board of directors and state interscholastic activities associations must develop concussion guidelines and education programs.
  • Youth athletes and a parent and/or guardian must sign and return a concussion and head injury information sheet on a yearly basis before the athlete’s first practice or before being allowed to compete.
  • Youth athletes suspected of having sustained a concussion in a practice or game must be immediately removed from competition.
  • Youth athletes who have been taken out of a game because of suspected concussion are not allowed to return to play until after:
    • Being evaluated by a health care provider with specific training in the evaluation and management of concussions
    • Receiving written clearance to return to plan from that health care provider
  • A school district complying with the law is immune from liability for injury or death of an athlete participating in a private, non-profit youth sports program due to action or inaction of persons employed by or under contract with the sports program if:
    • The action or inaction occurs on school property.
    • The non-profit provides proof of insurance.
    • The non-profit provides a statement of compliance with the policies for management of concussion and head injury in youth sports.

NFL Commissioner Urges State Governors to Enact Youth Concussion Laws

Following passage of the Zachery Lystedt law, in the spring of 2010, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell sent a letter to 77 U.S. Governors to encourage them to push for concussion legislation to protect youth athletes in their states.

He said: “Given our experience at the professional level, we believe a similar approach is appropriate when dealing with concussions in all youth sports.  That is why the NFL and its clubs urge you to support legislation that would better protect your state’s young athletes by mandating a more formal and aggressive approach to the treatment of concussions.” 

States Pass Youth Concussion Laws Modeled after Zachery Lystedt Law

By 2013, all states except Mississippi had enacted youth sports concussion safety laws modeled after Washington State’s Zachery Lystedt law. Finally, in 2014 Mississippi became the 50th state to respond by passing legislation to protect young athletes from the risks associated with concussion in sport.

The three main tenets of each state’s concussion legislation are:

  • To mandate educational outreach to coaches, parents and athletes
  • To mandate immediate removal from play of any athlete who sustains a concussion or who exhibits signs, symptoms or behaviors consistent with the injury
  • To only allow those athletes who exhibit such signs, symptoms, or behaviors to return to physical activity after receiving written clearance from an appropriate health care provider who is trained in concussion management

Many state laws also require parents to sign an acknowledgement form prior to allowing their child to play a contact sport after they have received information on concussion and acknowledged concussion risks involved with that sport.

Although nearly all laws include those three tenets, based on their own individual needs, many state laws vary on what sport programs must comply, what penalties exist for those who do not comply, and what medical providers are “appropriate” to make return to play decisions.

By |April 17th, 2017|Brain Injury|