Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Air Traffic Controller Errors Blamed for Near Miss Plane Crashes


The Federal Aviation Administration is once again focusing on air traffic controller issues, after a series of near miss incidents over the past few months.

According to the agency, it has investigated about half a dozen such incidents involving traffic controller errors, and involving aircraft flying around airports in Houston, Southern California, New York and Chicago. Obviously, this is not a problem that is restricted to one geographic area, and concerns are strong enough for the FAA to call for a range of measures, including stronger air traffic controller training.

One of the biggest concerns to California plane crash attorneys seems to be the fact that the FAA's insistence on self error-reporting by air traffic controllers isn't working as well as expected. In some of the incidents that have occurred, the FAA should have been notified of the error within 24 hours, but these errors were not reported until days after the incident had taken place. The agency requires that air traffic controllers report errors as soon as they occur, but has faced strong opposition from its own employees. The agency continues to place pressure on ATCs, but this hasn't gone down well with unions who claim that it’s the supervisors’ job to be overseeing the activities of the ATC, and not the duty of the ATCs to report any errors:

Some of these near-miss incidents have been severe enough to scare California air traffic control lawyers. They have also been far too frequent for comfort:
  • Two such incidents were reported near Houston's William P. Hobby Airport. Both incidents Involved Southwest Airlines Aircraft flying too close to other aircraft.
  • Last month, another Southwest aircraft flew within 200 feet of another aircraft after a Burbank airport traffic controller made an error in judging the spacing on the runway.
  • In February, another Southwest Airlines aircraft was involved in an incident in which pilots received a warning about another plane from the collision avoidance system, and were able to avoid a crash .
  • Similar such incidents have been reported in San Diego, New York and Chicago.
The FAA has its task cut out for it in getting air traffic controllers to report their mistakes. Until the agency can create an atmosphere of trust and cordiality, it's not going to be able to make a success of the self reporting system currently in place.

Friday, 21 May 2010

Jury Awards $250 Million Punitive Damages in Novartis Gender Discrimination Lawsuit

UPDATE: A federal jury awarded the plaintiffs $250 million in punitive damages, two days after finding that Novartis discriminated against pregnant women. California sexual discrimination attorneys applauded the jury award.

It was a verdict that California discrimination attorneys have been waiting for. A jury has awarded plaintiffs $3.3 million against pharmaceutical giant Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation, in a gender discrimination lawsuit.

It is a major victory for female employees of Novartis, who alleged that the company not only discriminated against them in pay scales and promotions, but also discouraged women employees from becoming pregnant. California employment discrimination attorneys will find this verdict a major milestone, not just because the judge also informed the jury to begin deliberations on a punitive damages verdict, but also because it's the second-largest gender discrimination lawsuit in the country. The biggest lawsuit is Dukes v. Wal-Mart, which last month received class certification. The Novartis lawsuit includes approximately 5,600 female employees of the company, and the plaintiffs in the lawsuit include sales representatives and entry-level managers

The trial lasted for about a month, and the jury saw evidence that Novartis fostered a culture that discouraged female employees from pregnancies. Female employees, who filed complaints of sexual harassment against top-level management, found that their complaints were ignored. Women who had the same qualifications and experience as their male counterparts, and even higher qualifications than the men in many instances, were frequently passed over for promotions in favor of the male employees.

Novartis has already made clear its intention to appeal the verdict. The company might want to save its energy for when the biggest shock hits. Jurors will soon begin deliberations on the punitive damages amount. The jury has already received one important piece of information they need to make the decision - the value of the company, set at $9.5 billion.

For female employees across the country and California workplace discrimination attorneys, this is a highly encouraging verdict, and hopefully, will set the tone for other discrimination lawsuits around the country.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Study Looks at Whether Familiar Voices Can Trigger Recovery from Brain Injury

Studies have shown that persons with severe traumatic brain injury (TBI) in a vegetative state, can respond to familiar voices. A new study is looking at whether listening to familiar voices can actually help patients with a traumatic brain injury recover.

The study is being funded by Theresa Pape, who is a research assistant professor at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. The study is being sponsored by the Department of Veterans Affairs. The study involves consistent and repeated exposure of familiar voices to the patient. CD recordings of the patients’ parents, siblings and others are played to the patient over and over again.

A group of 45 brain injury patients has been divided into three groups for the purposes of the trial. The high-dose group receives 10 minutes of recordings 4 times a day, over a period of six weeks. The low-dose group receives five minutes of recordings and 35 minutes of silence four times a day. The third group is a control group, where the patients don't receive recordings at all, but are made to wear headphones. After approximately six weeks, the researchers measure changes in the patient's behavioral condition, and compare them to changes in the MRI images.

The study is expected to throw more light on whether the networks of the brain relate to each other better after hearing the familiar voices. There's little that is known about how a damaged brain functions. In a normal person, the brain has no problem sending messages back and forth. When a person suffers a brain injury, the networks are twisted. Researchers are trying to figure out whether these twisted networks are capable of passing information.

Some patients in the study have shown substantial progress in the clinical trials. One patient with brain injury was incapable of making movements or following commands prior to the trial. About three weeks into the trial, he began to respond. After a while, he began to follow simple commands. About a year into the trial, the victim was able to text his friends, brush his teeth and perform some routine activities without help.

Obviously, these are encouraging results, and California brain injury lawyers will follow the progress of this research as it leads to new developments.

Friday, 14 May 2010

Tanning Misconceptions - Spray tanning may surpass UV tanning

The LA Times has a concise article about the misconceptions of tanning, and the implications of skin cancer. The statistics are revealing:
  • 37% incorrectly believe that indoor tanning beds are safer than the sun
  • 40% aren’t aware that sunburns and tanning during childhood are linked to skin cancer later in life
  • 52% mistakenly think a base tan protects the skin from further sun exposure
  • 65% don’t realize that all UV rays are harmful for skin, regardless of natural sunlight or bulbs

The article is based on the recent results of a survey by the American Academy of Dermatology, and additional info sheds some light (no pun intended) on why people want to be  tan. 
  • 72% of respondents find tanned skin more attractive than pale skin, 
  • 66% said a tan provides a healthy glow.
  • 60% were under the mistaken impression that sun exposure is good for one’s health.
What has become very popular recently is the availability of spray tanning, providing darkening of skin using organic solutions. Mystic tan is a trademark name, but several companies provide spray tan mobile airbrushing services - a much better alternative than exposure to UV light.  As more study results emerge, and increase in energy costs as well as taxes for UV tanning, spray tanning will be more available and accepted.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

More Cases of Infant Brain Injury During a Recession

The recession has claimed numerous victims, but its most innocent victims could be those babies who are looking at a lifetime of mental retardation and learning disabilities. These are babies who have suffered moderate to severe brain injury, as a result of being shaken by a parent. It's a well-known syndrome called Shaken Baby Syndrome, and during the recession, has spread its influence significantly.

A research group consisting of pediatricians has presented a report at the annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies in Vancouver. According to the report, there was a significant increase in the number of infants injured by Shaking Baby Syndrome as the recession began. The researchers analyzed data from 512 cases of head injury in infants. The data came from for child trauma care centers in Columbus and Cincinnati in Ohio, Seattle and Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania. They found that there had been an increase in children being rushed to emergency rooms with SBS-related brain injuries.

As of December 1, 2007, there were 9.3 such cases per month, compared to six per month before December 1, 2007. In fact in the three years before 2007, such rates had remained consistent. While researchers are not really surprised that abuse of children brought on by parents too stressed to cope, increased during the recession, they have been surprised at the substantial increase.

Shaken Baby Syndrome is one of the worst forms of child abuse. Typically, the child is picked up by the torso, and shaken violently from side to side. This violent shaking results in the brain bouncing about in the skull. There may be a variety of brain injuries that result, including bruising, swelling and bleeding. The damage can be serious even if the shaking lasted for just a few seconds.

Approximately 80% of children who survive Shaken Baby Syndrome are left with developmental disabilities or mental retardation. Often, a baby that is being shaken violently from side to side, may hit its head against a hard surface, like a wall. This can cause symptoms to worsen.

The risk of brain injury in a child is extremely high because babies’ brains are softer and more delicate. They have little sense of balance in their neck and head regions, and their neck muscles are still weak, which means their heads shake very violently during such incidents.

There is still no treatment for this type of brain injury, and all doctors can do is limit the extent of the damage. California brain injury lawyers would advise parents and caregivers to get the help they need, if they find themselves stressed, and unable to cope with parenting.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

New Bill Proposes Federal Standards for Teen Driver Licenses


Los Angeles personal injury lawyers believe that stricter Graduated Driver License (GDL) laws help promote teen motorist safety, reducing the numbers of injuries and fatalities in these accidents. A new bill will seek to establish stricter and uniform federal standards for state GDL programs.

The bill is called the Safe Teen and Novice Driver Uniform Protection Act. Its promoters are Democratic Senators Kirsten Gillebrandt , Chris Dodd, and Amy Klobuchar. The bill proposes to raise the minimum age at which a person can receive a learner’s permit, to 16 years. Currently, many states allow a person to receive a learner's permit at the age of 14 or 15. The bill also raises the minimum age for receiving an unrestricted driver's license to 18 years. The bill would also contain a provision that would block highway funds to states that do not implement the law after three years.

It's no secret that states that adopt tougher laws towards teen driving have fewer injury and fatality rates in accidents involving teen motorists. States like North Dakota that have weak teen motorist laws, have a much higher rate of injuries and fatalities in teen-related accidents than states like New Jersey. In that state, there has been a substantial drop in the numbers of such injuries and fatalities, since the state enacted stricter GDL programs. New Jersey in fact, has kept up the momentum by passing a law requiring motorists with learner’s permits to paste identifying decals on their cars.

Any time there is talk of making Graduated Driver License laws tougher, there is outrage from young drivers. That isn't so surprising to Los Angeles car accident attorneys. The National Youth Rights Association has strongly objected to the bill, calling it a “horrible idea.” That isn’t exactly a shocker, considering that this group is a strong advocate for the lowering of the minimum age for alcohol consumption. However, the lack of outright support from the Governors’ Highway Safety Association and other safety agencies has been odd. The GHSA claims that it objects to the provision that would cut off highway funding to states that do not implement the Act.

Ultimately, it's not just teen motorists and their families who will benefit from these laws, but also the millions of people who share the roads with young drivers every year.