Pentlarge Law Group Blogs

Keyless Ignitions Can Kill

Everyone enjoys the convenience of keyless ignition systems. More than 50% of new cars sold today have them. Unfortunately, as convenient as they are, they also create new and serious risks, particularly in a northern climate like Anchorage where we are more prone to leaving our vehicle running to warm it up or keep it warm during the cold winter months.

There has been an increase in deaths nationwide caused by carbon monoxide poisoning from inadvertently leaving keyless ignition cars running in the garage after getting home. Apparently, the habit of turning off the ignition with a key and removing it is changed by the convenience of having a keyless ignition. Drivers, especially older drivers, accustomed to the standard key ignition, sometimes park their cars and get out of them, forgetting that they have to manually turn it off even though there is no key in the ignition. When they do this at home, in the garage, or near an air intake duct for a garage, the consequences can be deadly.

The New York Times has reported that more than 24 people nationwide have been killed by carbon monoxide poisoning after inadvertently leaving their keyless ignition vehicle running in a garage after arriving home. They also report that dozens of others have been injured and left with brain damage: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/13/business/deadly-convenience-keyless-cars-and-their-carbon-monoxide-toll.html

This danger has been known since Mercedes-Benz introduced the first keyless ignition system back in 1998. Unfortunately there are no regulations in place to require car manufacturers to make sure keyless ignition systems are safe from this risk. Countless times, drivers with keyless ignition systems leave the vehicle while it is running. Sometimes they leave the key fob in the vehicle, other times they take it with them. Car manufacturers unfortunately have not adopted a system to warn the driver that they have left the car running or to automatically turn off the car once the driver leaves the vehicle running, with or without the key in the vehicle. As a result, sometimes drivers leave the vehicles running when they exit their vehicles upon arriving at home in their garage. The closing garage door masks the sound of the running engine.  The carbon monoxide fills the garage and then begins to fill their house, often with deadly or disastrous results.

As reported by the New York Times: “On a summer morning last year, Fred Schaub drove his Toyota Rav4 into the garage attached to his Florida home and went into the house with the wireless key fob, believing the car was shut off. 29 hours later he was found dead, overcome with carbon monoxide that flooded his home while he slept. “After 75 years of driving, my father thought that when he took the key with him when he left the car, the car would be off,” said Mr. Schaub’s son, Doug.”

“A bad dream woke Michael Sobik on October 8, 2015, at his home in Miramar beach, Florida. The smell of fumes filled his nostrils and he looked up at his wife, Jamie, realizing his motor skills were slow. Car fumes and carbon monoxide emitted from Mrs. Sobik’s Lexus had filled the garage overnight and flooded the home. They were overcome by nausea as their blood cells were starved of oxygen. Mr. Sobik stumbled through the house to the garage and was knocked by a rush of fumes. He opened the garage door and went back into the house. Mrs. Sobik had fallen out of bed in an attempt to stand up. “I couldn’t breathe, I was gasping,” she said, recalling that her husband shouted at her to get outside. “The next thing you know he is dragging me onto the grass.” Disoriented and vomiting she asked if they were about to die. “I remember the fear in telling her no, because I didn’t know,” Mr. Sobik said. When fire marshals arrived, the gas reading inside the house was 80 times the tolerable level for humans. The Sobiks now live with severe brain injuries.”

These incidents came to the attention of the Society of Automotive Engineers, and more than nine years ago they recommended that the government and the automobile manufacturers adopt safety standards to address these hazards. Unfortunately, this has not happened yet. While some manufacturers have audible warnings when drivers leave the car running with or without the key in the car, and a few have an automatic shut off feature, no industry standard has been adopted, and these deaths and injuries continue to mount.

While we wait for the government and car manufacturers to take appropriate action, you can take actions to protect yourself. First, try to always remember to turn off your vehicle immediately upon arriving home, whether you park inside or outside of a garage.  Second, consider installing a carbon monoxide detector inside your house as close as possible to the entry door from the garage.

Please pass this information on to your friends and family. Just reading this will cause us all to be more aware, and safer!

How To Select an Attorney for a Personal Injury Case

If you have been hurt in an accident you are probably going through a tough time. You are dealing with injuries. You are attending appointments with your doctors. You may be losing work. You may be having trouble paying bills. You probably are being contacted by insurance companies to discuss your case. Lawyers may be contacting you even though you have not reached out to them.

While all of this can be very stressful, at some point you will need to decide whether or not you want to hire a lawyer. We have prepared a separate blog to help you consider whether or not you need to hire a lawyer HERE. That blog discusses the pros and cons of hiring a lawyer, the importance of hiring a lawyer early, and what you can expect the lawyer to do to help you.

Once you have decided that you might want to hire a lawyer, you need to determine how to select a lawyer. Selecting a professional to help you with your personal injury case is not always the easiest thing to do. However, we have some pointers to help you along the way.

We hope that you consider hiring us, but even if you don’t, these pointers should help you during the process of selecting your lawyer. Remember, you don’t need to hire the first lawyer you talk to, or the lawyer a friend refers you to. Do your due diligence as suggested below. Pick the lawyer you are most comfortable with and that you think cares about you and your case.

  • Get a referral from a trusted source: Sometimes the best way to find a good lawyer for your personal injury case is to get a referral from a friend, especially if they have had a problem like yours. Also consider asking other trusted professionals including doctors, ministers, social workers, bankers, or business people you trust.
  • Try the Alaska bar association lawyer referral service: If you are having trouble finding the name of a lawyer, you may call the Alaska bar association’s free lawyer referral service. In Anchorage, call 907-272-0352. Their toll free number in Alaska is 1-800-770-9999. They will give you the names of three lawyers who might be able to help you. See the Alaska Bar Association at: https://www.alaskabar.org/servlet/content/lawyer_referral_serv.html
  • Do computer research to locate a lawyer: Don’t be afraid to do research on Google or other search engines to find a lawyer. Be an educated consumer and review the information you see online carefully.
  • During the free consultations or sometime shortly thereafter, the lawyer should make a decision about whether the lawyer wants to accept your case and is willing to represent you. The choice about whether or not you want to hire the lawyer is then yours. Do not allow a lawyer to pressure you into agreeing to hire them. The lawyer should make you feel comfortable if you want to go home and think about things or want to shop around for other lawyers.
  • Feel free to talk to multiple lawyers: a free consultation is not only an opportunity for the lawyer to interview you to decide if he or she wants your case, it is also an opportunity for you to interview the lawyer to see if you want to retain that lawyer. Feel free to have multiple free consultations with multiple lawyers. Pick the lawyer you feel most comfortable with.
  • Consider the lawyers fee arrangement: personal injury lawyers generally work on a contingency fee basis. This means the lawyer does not get paid by the hour. Instead the lawyer gets paid by receiving a percentage of the total recovery the lawyer obtains on your behalf. In Anchorage, personal injury lawyers often charge one third (33.33%) of the recovery. However, some charge more and some charge less. The contingent fee percentage may be negotiable with the lawyer.
  • Some lawyers charge by the hour. Though most personal injury lawyers prefer to charge a contingency fee, if you want to hire a lawyer and pay by the hours you should search for a lawyer who is willing to do that.If the lawyer wants to charge you an upfront fee for a retainer for costs, this may be a red flag. Most personal injury lawyers in Anchorage, Alaska do not ask the client for money up front, unless the case is unusual.

    At Pentlarge Law Group our fee is usually 33.33% of the recovery. Occasionally we negotiate our fees upward or downward for special cases. At Pentlarge Law Group we never charge an upfront retainer for costs or attorney fees. If we feel we are able to help you and want to take your case we front the expenses of prosecuting your case entirely on our own until it is resolved.

  • Make sure you are comfortable with the lawyer: Make sure you are comfortable with the lawyer when you meet the lawyer. Does the lawyer listen to you? Does the lawyer ask appropriate questions? Does the lawyer answer your questions? Do the lawyer’s answers make sense? Do you think the lawyer actually cares about you and your case?
  • Do not let a lawyer intimidate you or pressure you into hiring them: Remember, you are the consumer. You are shopping for a lawyer to represent you. Do not let a lawyer intimidate you into hiring them at the first meeting. At the initial consultation, the lawyer should learn about your case, answer all of your questions, and let you know whether the lawyer wishes to represent you. The lawyer should encourage you to shop around. The lawyer should never make you feel like you need to hire that lawyer now or never. (An exception here is when the statute of limitations is close to expiring. See our blog on the statute of limitations HERE. If a lawyer needlessly pressures you, perhaps it is not the right lawyer for you.
  • Read the fee agreement carefully: If you decide you want to hire the lawyer, and the lawyer agrees to take your case, the lawyer will give you a written fee agreement. All ethical personal injury attorneys in Anchorage Alaska represent their clients only after their clients sign a written fee agreement. Make sure you understand it. The lawyer should answer any questions you have. Do not hire the lawyer unless you understand the fee agreement and are comfortable with it after reading it.
  • Conclusion: Hopefully the above guidelines will assist you in hiring a personal injury lawyer for your case if you decide you want one. The Alaska bar association also has information on how to select a lawyer here: https://www.alaskabar.org/servlet/content/how_to_select_a_lawy.html The American bar association also has some general information which may be helpful here: https://www.americanbar.org/groups/public_education/resources/law_issues_for_consumers.html

Two Winter Hazards To Watch Out For

personal injury attorneysAccidental slips, trips, and falls are a big problem in Alaska. In fact, 8,991 Alaskans went to the hospital in 2012 owing to these injuries. What can state officials and residents do to improve these numbers and keep people safe? Personal injury attorneys share their best tips to prevent serious harm and injuries from falling.

Aging Americans Are Especially At Risk
Personal injury lawyers reveal that seniors are one of the most likely groups to trip and fall. And it can be a bigger problem than you think. Stumbling and falling does not just result in injury, it can also lead to untimely death. (Accidental injury is the third top cause of death in the state.) Thankfully, there are several steps seniors can take to significantly curtail the likelihood of dangerous falls.

One of the best preventative measures, according to Alaska’s wellness advocacy program Go4Life, is regular exercise. The program recommends daily walking, bike riding, and light, strength building exercises, like tennis ball grips and wall push ups, to stay in top form. Exercise increases dexterity and balance, making it significantly less likely for you to topple over. This is true for people of all ages, although it is especially important for seniors to make an effort to stay active, even into old age.

Watch Out For Hazardous Winter Weather Conditions
Many Americans believe that personal injury law firms contend with road accidents only in the winter. While there are certainly more car accidents in winter (killing 64 people in Alaska in 2009), weather-related trips are also a big problem. Alaskans are much more likely to fall on ice and snow. Wear boots and footwear with proper traction, travel on provided walkways only, and keep your hands free — just in case you should have to steady yourself.

Don’t have an unnecessary run-in with personal injury attorneys. Exercise regularly for the best possible balance, and be especially careful when walking in icy or snowy winter weather.

Fast Food Blues: Three of the Craziest Personal Injury Claims Ever Filed Against Fast Food Restaurants

personal injury claimThe world is a scary and dangerous place. Just look at Australia, which is full of terrifying apex predators. Or, better yet, take a look at the fast food industry. Here are a few of the wildest personal injury claims ever filed against our favorite eateries.

Warning: Hot Coffee Is Hot.
One of the most well publicized personal injury claims was Stella Lieback’s. Back in 1994, a hot coffee she’d bought from McDonald’s burned her. She and her personal injury attorneys sued the monolithic fast food company for $20,000 in damages. Amazingly, her personal injury lawyers won her a $200,000 settlement, which was reduced to $160,000 because she was found to be 20% responsible for the incident. Most incredible, though, is the fact that her personal injury claim went on to eventually earn her $2.7 million in punitive damages. While this claim might seem incredible, it’s worth noting that the burns she received were severe — the coffee was much hotter than it reasonably needed to be — and Stella never fully recovered from them before she died.

Don’t Drink (Milkshakes) and Drive.
Most motorists know they’re not supposed to eat and drive at the same time, but some would argue that that is exactly what drive-throughs are for. One such man once went to grab some fries, but did it a bit too quickly, and caused the milkshake he was holding with his knees to explode. Distracted by the sudden mess, he wound up hitting another car. The victim then lodged a personal injury claim against McDonald’s for his injuries on the grounds that their milkshakes should warn people not to eat and drive. Though the personal injury claim did make it all the way up to New Jersey’s Supreme Court, it eventually got thrown out.

Police Do Not Have It Their Way.
McDonald’s isn’t the only fast food chain to get in trouble. Two New Mexico police officers once tried to file a personal injury claim against Burger King in 2006. They also sued for negligence, battery and violation of fair practices, and sought unspecified damages along with legal costs. The cause for such drama? Halfway through their burgers they noticed something suspicious. After a quick field test, they arrested three Burger King employees for having put marijuana in their sandwiches.

Have you ever heard of a crazy accident at a fast food restaurant? Share your story in the comments!

Three of the Craziest Car Accidents of All Time

personal injury claimOne of the most common personal injury claims in Alaska is an automobile accident injury. In 2009, there were 261 traffic crashes per 100 million vehicle miles traveled in Alaska alone, leading to 34,552 people being involved in automobile accidents, 5,330 of whom were injured, and another 64 of whom died.

Though many of these auto accidents are rather routine, personal injury attorneys have seen a few that — in a word — aren’t. Here are a few of the craziest personal injury claims that resulted from even crazier car accidents.

A Milk Trip Three Years Too Early.
A 13-year-old girl caused a few personal injury claims when her mom told her to borrow the family car, go to the store, and pick up some milk. The weirdest part about the whole situation, perhaps, was the fact that the mother didn’t understand what the fuss was all about.

Look Out For Falling Cars.
In Donegal Town, Ireland, a woman was walking around a parking garage, likely looking for her own vehicle. As one usually is, she wasn’t entirely worried about something falling on her, since she was indoors. Because she wasn’t wary of what was going on above her, however, she didn’t see the car coming when it fell from the second story.

One More Reason Not to Use Your Cellphone When You Drive.
Cell phones cause tons of car accidents each and every day, but usually because people are talking on them. One man, however, dropped his cell phone when he was driving. The device then found its way behind the brake pedal, preventing the driver from being able to use the brake. The craziest part of the personal injury claim, though, is the fact that the at-fault-driver said he didn’t want to slam on the brake in fear of breaking his cell phone.

Personal injury lawyers take on car accident cases all the time, but it’s not often that they see a personal injury claim as crazy as a 13-year-old driver’s pile up.

If you’ve ever had a crazy personal injury claim, feel free to share your story in the comments.

How to Know if You Should Hire a Personal Injury Attorney

In Alaska, unintentional injury is the third leading cause of death. In a state famed for its cold temperatures and wildlife, perhaps this is to be expected. However, a significant percentage of these deaths are not from exposure or related issues: instead, traffic crashes were responsible for 5330 injuries and 64 deaths in Alaska during 2009 alone. If you are one of the many who has been involved or injured in an automobile accident, you may need to hire a personal injury lawyer or vehicle accident attorney. This is often the best way to claim any personal injury insurance payments you may be owed in a state where vehicle accidents are so common.
Read More …..

SHOULD I SIGN A MEDICAL RECORDS RELEASE?

At some point following your injury accident you will likely be contacted by the insurance claims adjuster for the negligent at-fault party.   You will likely receive a letter that will be introductory in nature and will tell you that he/she is committed to resolving your claim in a prompt and fair manner.  They will also enclose a medical records release for your signature.  Read More …..