In this Blog category you will find articles about protecting the health and safety of people who live and work in Oregon. Personal Injury at work and Insurance Liability Claims may require the help of an attorney. A good lawyer can protect your rights under the law.

Tougher Distracted Driving Laws Take Effect

Beginning October first, Oregonians can expect police to pay closer attention to their habits behind the wheel. On that day, the state’s new, fortified distracted driving law will have taken effect. The new law makes it easier for distracted drivers to get pulled over by police, who can now issue citations to anyone holding any electronic device. The new law seeks to address gaping loopholes in the old law, which let people use their digital devices for everything except talking and texting. Ultimately, the goal is to reduce instances of auto accidents caused by distracted driving.

Distracted Driving More Dangerous than DUII?

While tough DUI laws across all 50 states have caused the DUI accident and fatality rates to go down, weak or no laws targeting distracted driving have allowed the rate of distracted driving accidents and fatalities to climb. As technology becomes ever more enthralling and commutes ever more drudging, our inclination to use technology as a distraction strengthens. As a result, more people than ever are driving distractedly by using technology at times that make them a hazard to be on the road.

Distracted driving often manifests in the form of texting while driving, which some claim is as or more dangerous than drunk driving. From 2002 to 2014, drunk driving fatalities dropped by 25%. This decline can be attributed to an increase in awareness of the dangers of drunk driving as well as tough penalties for DUI. In the same time frame, however, fatalities caused by distracted driving accidents shot up from 2,600 deaths in 2002 to 3,331 in 2011.

How does Oregon’s New Law Protect Drivers?

Under Oregon’s old cell phone law, drivers could not communicate via cell phone. As it turned out, it was difficult for cops to know just when someone was texting or placing a call when they saw a driver holding a phone.

At one point, an officer stopped a woman who was using her phone behind the wheel. He smelled alcohol and suspected she was under the influence. He then conducted field sobriety tests and arrested her for DUII. An Oregon Court of Appeals judge ruled that since the officer didn’t see the woman physically communicating on her phone, he did not have probable cause to make the stop. Thus, all the evidence obtained from the stop was suppressed. This made it difficult for police to enforce

By |October 2nd, 2017|Auto Accidents, Distracted Driving, Protecting Oregonians|

Firefighters Save Historic Multnomah Falls Lodge

Since an adolescent in the running for the 2017 Darwin Award ignited the Eagle Creek fire, tenacious firefighters have worked tirelessly to contain the flames that continue to destroy vast swaths of the Columbia River Gorge’s natural beauty. One landmark, in particular, was at risk of destruction and may not have survived the flames had it not been for their bravery and quick thinking.

Oregon State Fire Marshal Structural Team Saves Historic Lodge

Thanks to a resilient team of structural firefighters, the iconic Multnomah Falls Lodge was spared from the hungry flames of the Eagle Creek fire as they enveloped one of Oregon’s most scenic waterfalls. It took just two days for the fire to spread to the region from its point of origin near Punch Bowl Falls. The fire soon posed a threat to the lodge as firefighters braced for battle.

The fire ripped across the ridge atop the falls and blazed downward toward the rigid stone structure. As trees plummeted, temperatures surged. All the firefighters on duty had just one goal: save the lodge.

A team of water tenders managed to keep the lodge damp as the fire storm progressed. Fire crews used hose lines to protect the lodge from heat as large trees torched. The battle lasted overnight, but the lodge came out unscathed.

Preparing for Battle

As the stench of thick smoke filled his nostrils and burned his eyes, Rick Buck knew the lodge was in danger. The proprietor of the historic structure evacuated the lodge as fire crews arrived to fend off the flames. Lance Lighty with the Eugene Springfield Fire Battalion was called in to lead the crew. After a hectic holiday weekend, he had influenced the shutdown of I-84 while working with ODOT. He had witnessed first-hand 30-MPH gusts catalyze flames and smoke through the dense forest of the Gorge during an extremely dry summer. As the flames skirted the state’s highest waterfall, Lighty recognized the importance of the lodge and was determined to save it at all costs.

 

He and his staff knew that plenty of firefighters would be needed to have a shot at victory. They needed to find a way to moisten the area around the lodge and the roof from above, as it was too late to remove

By |September 22nd, 2017|Personal Injury, Protecting Oregonians|

Can Bridge City Survive the Big Quake?

Burnside Hawthorne Bridges

Portland Oregon, at the confluence of two rivers with a population of over 600,000, is a bridge-dependent city. Each of its thirteen bridges spanning the Willamette River are vital to keeping transportation flowing. In 2011, the city of Portland began to prepare for the inevitability of destruction from a predicted major earthquake without any usable bridges.

Major Quake Destruction Predicted for Portland

The Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries sees 1 in 3 odds of Oregon experiencing a magnitude 8 or 9 Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake sometime within the next 50 years. The last Oregon quake of that strength was in 1700, with a magnitude of 8.7 to 9.2. Today, a quake of that strength would be enough to destroy buildings and roads, take down power lines, block streets, rupture gas lines, and break water and sewer lines, causing many areas to be uninhabitable.

In that scenario, the State of Oregon predicts pockets of isolation where people may be stranded due to broken transportation infrastructure for 72 hours or longer. The bridges of the Willamette River are the city’s transportation connection. In the aftermath of a devastating earthquake, first responders would need those vital links to administer aid to all areas of the city.

Majority of Portland Bridges Not Designed to Survive a Quake

Varying in age, each bridge spanning the Willamette River is unique in construction, with some built in the early 20thcentury to carry horse and buggy across the River. Even bridges more recently built were not designed by current standards to withstand an earthquake of the magnitude that geologists predict for Oregon.

“A majority of the bridges…were built prior to scientists’ current understanding of the regional seismic threat and prior to the engineers’ current understanding of effective seismic design,” said Portland State University civil and environmental engineering professor Peter Dusicka. “We have learned a lot in the past several decades; unfortunately, a majority of our infrastructure is significantly older,” he said.

Oregon bridge engineers did not design for Cascadia-level earthquakes of magnitude 8 or 9 until the mid-1990s. Even the relatively new Fremont Bridge, built in the 1970s, is not expected to be useful following a major quake. If the bridge survives, engineers predict that the ramps leading up to the bridge will not hold up.

Bridge Replacement vs Retrofit

The susceptibilities of Portland’s bridges are complex, each having different weaknesses, with some

By |September 6th, 2017|Protecting Oregonians|

Is Public Transportation Safe in Portland?

Commuters have questioned the safety of Portland’s public transportation system for years, but never as vehemently as they have since the tragic MAX attack. Ever since an extremist white supremacist stabbed three brave men, slaying two and injuring a third, passengers are trying to overcome anxieties about the possibility of future acts of violence taking place aboard the trains. The widespread news coverage has shaken people across the country.

Soon after the tragedy occurred on March 26, TriMet substantially beefed up security presence, giving more hours to its police officers, supervisors, and private security guards. TriMet also hired extra private security guards and transit and community safety officers to establish a presence, particularly on rides to and from the Rose Quarter and Gateway transit centers.

Most passengers welcomed more security in the aftermath of the MAX attacks, but statistics show that crimes against passengers have been steadily declining since TriMet took a stand to curb crime in 2008, the year a senior citizen was attacked with a baseball bat.

TriMet Makes Security a Focus

When a teenage suspected gang member beat a 71-year-old from Sandy with a baseball bat at the Gresham Transit Center, passengers called out TriMet for failing to keep them safe. The attack occurred the day after the mayor of Gresham at the time commanded Gresham police to patrol MAX trains.

Mayor Shane Bemis communicated to TriMet’s general manager at the time a list of grievances he had received from Gresham residents boarding TriMet. Instances of public inebriation, gang violence, drug activity, assault, and fare skipping were rampant. In response, a conference was held to discuss safety in which a state representative attended.

The pressure on TriMet to make safety a priority established their now formal partnership with local law enforcement departments. Passengers became empowered to report any suspicious activity and look to TriMet employees for help.

Police Controversy

Not everyone believes that increased police presence will do much to deter crime, and many do not want to interact with armed police officers. Transit advocacy organizations are concerned that the police and fare inspectors pose a threat to minority and low-income riders. Just two days before the MAX tragedy, over a dozen activists expressed to TriMet’s Board of

By |August 12th, 2017|Protecting Oregonians|

Oregon Transportation Safety Committee Meeting Presents Ambitious Agenda

ODOT

The Oregon Transportation Safety Committee (OTSC) will meet at 9:30 am on Tuesday, August 8th, at the Department of Public Safety Standards and Training, 4190 Aumsville Highway SE in Salem, with a pre-meeting agenda review session in DPSST Room A254 at 9:00 am. Anyone wishing to be present for a particular item should arrive when the meeting begins to avoid missing an item of interest.

The OTSC, within the Department of Transportation  (DOT), was created under ORS 802.300 to advise the DOT and the Oregon Transportation Commission (OTC) on issues, policies and programs that affect Oregon transportation safety, and performs any other functions related to transportation safety that the commission delegates.

The five members of the OTSC are appointed by the Governor on the recommendation of the commission for a four year term of office.  The Governor appoints one member of the committee as the chair and another member as vice chair, and the Director of Transportation may also appoint assistants, consultants, clerical staff and other employees as needed.

After welcome and introductions, the Consent Calendar and July Meeting Minutes will be read, followed at 9:45 by member, program, and liaison reports.

At 10:00, C. Hunter will provide a Region 3 Bridge Study Update.

At 10:15, ODOT Tree Maintenance will be the next topic of discussion.

At 10:30, liaison reports will be presented by Oregon State Police (P. Huskey), National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Region 10 (S. Wise), and the Traffic Records Coordinating Committee (W. McAllister).

At 11:00, the following program managers will present updates: Speed presented by K. Twenge, and Driver Education by B. Warner.

At 11:30, H. Gard and J. Palmateer will review with updates the Public Transit Plan / Public Transit Division.

At 1:00, the Change Management Plan will be discussed by K. Bruce and C. Phelps.

Finally at 2:30, presenters will announce the next meeting date, set for September 12, 2017 at 9:30 am at the same location: Department of Public Safety Standards and Training, 4190 Aumsville Highway SE in Salem.

The following are possible topics for future meetings:

  • Data Report on Pedestrians and Crashes
  • Local Traffic Safety Action Plan (TSAP) Presentation
  • Drug Recognition Experts (DREs) with National and State Statistics

Learn more about issues impacting safety, well-being, and justice at rizklaw.com. To schedule a confidential appointment to discuss a claim with an attorney, call (503) 245-5677 or email info@rizklaw.com.

By |August 7th, 2017|Protecting Oregonians|

Homeless Women’s Village First of its Kind in Portland

Despite efforts to contain Portland’s widespread homelessness, a recent report unveiled that the city’s homeless population has increased by 10% since the city’s homeless crisis began two years ago. In a new effort to provide some stability, the city is testing out its first government-supported homeless village.

It’s a homeless camp with a twist. Residents of Kenton Women’s Village — formerly known as the POD Village — reside in fourteen tiny houses reserved for homeless women in Portland. The village provides a community atmosphere with oversight and ongoing support from Catholic Charities, a non-profit organization. It is a cost-friendly alternative to traditional homeless shelters which are not effective for everyone who needs a place to stay.

Portland Explores New Territory in Homelessness Fight

Kenton Women’s Village is a one year pilot project that emerged from a collaboration between the City of Portland, the Joint Office of Homeless Services, Catholic Charities, and the Village Coalition. The project received strong support from a majority of neighborhood residents and top local officials such as Mayor Ted Wheeler and Multnomah County Chairwoman Deborah Kafoury. It officially opened on June 10th.

The goal of the project is to experiment with new methods to combat homelessness, a rampant problem throughout greater Portland. The fleet of homes lies on N Argyle Street on property owned by the Portland Development Commission. Each individual pod is assigned to one resident. At 8 feet by 12, the homes are too small to have their own bathroom and cooking facilities. They are not equipped with running water or electricity; however, each home is equipped with solar panels to charge a cell phone and locks on doors. Residents share a community bathroom and kitchen.

Individual homes like these may save the city public funds in the long run, as they are less expensive to provide and manage than a homeless shelter. These homes can work well for homeless citizens who cannot thrive in shelters; those who have difficulty getting along with others can resort to their own pods for privacy. That is not to say that conflicts do not arise in Kenton Women’s Village.

Eighteen days after the village began to accept residents two of the women left. One cited verbal

By |July 14th, 2017|Protecting Oregonians|

Should TriMet Increase Transit Police?

The tragedy that ensued on May 26th aboard a MAX train has sparked a raging desire for safety aboard public transportation and an ensuing debate that seeks to determine the best course of action. While many are in support of an increase in police presence, many others are skeptical that additional armed officers would do little to improve safety. There are valid concerns and heated passions on both sides of the debate. At the heart of the situation is the sincere regard for the safety of passengers, many who rely on public transportation each and every day.

TriMet Stabbings

It is a story that has become a national sensation. Three brave men aboard a MAX train out of the Hollywood station in Northeast Portland defended two girls being verbally harassed and intimidated by a rogue white supremacist spouting anti-Muslim racial slurs and hate speech. The man, now in the custody of the state, slashed the three men’s throats. Just one survived.

The attacker had a long list of prior run-ins with the law and was a convicted felon. He had convictions for felony robbery, kidnapping, and weapons. He had spent eight years in state prison serving time in four different institutions due to disciplinary issues. His mother claimed that she had long suspected he may have mental health issues and he was living on the streets at the time of the attacks.

The attacks immediately left Portland users of mass public transportation shaken. TriMet officials responded by beefing up security and police presence. They continue to explore different avenues to keep riders safe by adding even more security and police officers permanently, yet there is a strong force of opposition to this proposal.

To Police or Not to Police

The default response to any terror attack is to increase security. The idea is that personnel dedicated to responding to incidents will be skilled in utilizing de-escalation techniques while keeping the public safe.

TriMet held a board meeting in June to discuss ideas moving forward. Present was a witness of the MAX stabbings, who believed that the lives of the slain men could have been saved had there been some kind of

By |July 10th, 2017|Protecting Oregonians|

Portland Police Maintains Order during June 4 Demonstrations

Portland Police Bureau

Compared to Portland political demonstrations in November and January, demonstrations on June 4, 2017 were well maintained within three downtown city blocks, with relatively minimal traffic disruption.  

The intent of law enforcement is to provide a safe environment for all participants, non-participants, and community members while ensuring the peaceful exercise of the First Amendment,” the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) stated.

Expecting a few hundred to over a thousand participants, no permits were issued by the city for the June 4th events, scheduled for downtown Terry D. Schrunk Plaza, City Hall, and Chapman Square. PPB said they expected all rally and protest participants to remain on the sidewalks or in city parks, and advised drivers to plan for possible traffic disruptions in the area.

Constant Law Enforcement Presence Keeps Crowd in Check

In response to online threats made by multiple groups prior to the event, the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) partnered with the following agencies to keep the peace:

  • Oregon State Police
  • Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office
  • Federal Protective Service
  • Department of Homeland Security
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation
  • United States Attorney’s Office
  • Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office
  • Portland Fire & Rescue

It is hard to imagine a better place for Portland city demonstrations than Terry D. Schrunk Plaza, a federal property managed by the U.S. General Services Administration, with the Federal Protective Service as the lead enforcement agency for the property. Demonstrators in that area are required to follow specific conduct rules at the city, state, and federal levels.

To keep protesters out of the streets, police stretched yellow crime scene tape along sidewalks adjacent to the streets, and officers outfitted in riot gear maintained a constant presence to keep the crowd in check. Although 14 arrests were made, no serious violence occurred.

November Protesters Spill onto Bridges and Freeway

In contrast, more than 200 protesters blocked traffic in both directions on Interstate 5 in Portland for four hours during the November 10, 2016 post-Presidential election demonstrations, which extended for several days. One woman was struck by a vehicle that tried to make it through the human barrier on Interstate 5, and a protester was shot in an apparent argument over blocking traffic on the Morrison Bridge during a protest.

Pedestrians walking on the freeway is illegal and extremely dangerous to all road users,” Portland police said.

To prevent further incidents, the state Department of Transportation (ODOT) briefly shut down Interstate 5

By |June 9th, 2017|Auto Accidents, Protecting Oregonians|

Portland Homeless Population Increases 10% in 2017

Since the city’s 2015 homeless crisis, millions of dollars worth of funds have been funneled into various resources in an attempt to cut the homeless population in half by 2017. It is now the summer of 2017, and that has not happened. Instead, Portland’s homeless population has increased 10%.

Back in 2015, there was such rampant homelessness that Mayor Ted Wheeler declared it a state of emergency. The homeless population was 3801. Today, it is 4177 despite record spending ($30 million) by Multnomah County and the City of Portland to bring these numbers down. Funds have been placed toward permanent housing, shelter, and programs that help prevent people from becoming homeless, as well as rent assistance, yet the rate at which the homeless are becoming homeless has outpaced these efforts due to a blossoming housing crisis and other factors.

While the increase is unfortunate, it does not prove that efforts to curb homelessness have not paid off in some way. For the first time since the city began counting the homeless population, there is a greater portion of homeless people in shelters than on the streets. The number of unsheltered homeless persons has decreased 12%. This was made possible because these funds have contributed to an increase in shelter beds throughout the city. Roughly 630 more beds were added since January 2016, making room for families, women, people with pets, and others experiencing homelessness. Over 3500 people were also placed into permanent housing.

Why are numbers increasing?

In the summertime, Portland traditionally experiences an explosion in the homeless population as many transients make their way to Portland from other areas. In addition, many sources point to skyrocketing housing costs and lack of availability of affordable housing as a key driver of homelessness.

Generally, homeless men and women are attracted to urban areas that have the resources they need to survive. Homelessness is decreasing nationally in rural areas, while many large cities are grappling with a serious homeless problem, including New York, L.A., and Seattle which all have over 10,000 homeless people living on the streets or in shelters.

In Portland, the number of chronically homeless individuals rose 24%. Of

By |June 6th, 2017|General News, Protecting Oregonians|

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|