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Williamsport Legal Blog

Report claims autonomous cars are still far from safe

Pennsylvania residents who follow developments in the technology sector are likely aware that several carmakers have vowed to bring fully autonomous vehicles to market within the next few years. Recent fatal accidents involving a Tesla sedan with its Autopilot feature engaged and a self-driving SUV being tested by the ride-sharing company Uber have prompted some experts to speculate that the transition to autonomous motoring is happening too quickly. A recent report from the Rand Corporation seems to add weight to these arguments.

According to Rand researchers, carmakers and technology giants such as Alphabet Inc., which is Google's parent company, are jeopardizing the safety of road users as they rush to produce the world's first truly self-driving vehicle. The report could be particularly worrying to Pittsburgh residents as the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation recently authorized Uber to resume autonomous testing in the city.

Avoiding common workers’ comp claim mistakes

Suffering an injury at work can be terrifying, leaving you uncertain as to when you can return to work, how you will provide for your family and more. The U.S. Bureau Of Labor Statistics reported that in 2017, employees suffered 882,730 workplace injuries or illnesses that resulted in days away from work.

Fortunately, Pennsylvania requires most employers to provide employees with access to workers’ compensation benefits. Unfortunately, the process to recovering the compensation you need can be confusing. To efficiently move the process along, below are several common mistakes made throughout the process of filing a claim and recovering:

CVSA announces dates of International Roadcheck 2019

Drivers in Pennsylvania and around the country can expect to see tractor-trailers undergoing rigorous roadside inspections between June 4 and June 6 as the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance conducts its annual International Roadcheck safety blitz. During the 72-hour crackdown in 2018, about 12,000 semi-trucks and more than 2,500 commercial vehicle drivers were ordered out of service by inspectors for safety violations and paperwork irregularities.

In a March 25 press release, the CVSA said that inspectors will be paying particular attention to suspension and steering components during the upcoming International Roadcheck initiative. Suspension and steering systems support the loads carried by large trucks and play a crucial safety role in emergency situations. When they are poorly maintained or inadequately repaired, tire wear is accelerated and blowout accidents are more likely to occur.

OSHA seeks to change standards for powered industrial trucks

Some Pennsylvania drivers of powered industrial trucks may want to contribute a comment to a request for information from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. OSHA is considering making a change to its standards, which have only been revised once since they were put into place in 1971. The request was made on March 11 and will remain open until June 10.

The original standards were based on those of the National Fire Protection Association and the American National Standards Institute. Unlike the OSHA standards, those ones have been updated a number of times. For example, ANSI standards requires that training address such issues as the hazards of carbon monoxide and noise exposure. Eight trucks included in NFPA's standards are not included in OSHA's.

Congress asked to impose more truck safety regulations

A roadway safety coalition is concerned about the dangers of trucking accidents in Pennsylvania and across the country, urging changes in legislation that could impose greater regulations on large semi-trucks. Road Safe America, the Truck Safety Coalition and others are calling on Congress to require all heavy trucks to make use of speed limiting devices and automatic emergency braking technology. These advocates say that statistics about crashes back up their call for more rules on truck safety.

When occupants of smaller vehicles are involved in truck accidents with 18-wheelers, they are far more likely to be seriously injured or even killed due to the size, weight and mass of large trucks. Therefore, the advocates say that greater regulation is important if it can reduce the likelihood of and the risk posed by trucking crashes. According to data from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, crashes at highway speeds were twice as common for trucks that did not turn on their speed limiters than for the trucks that activated the devices. In addition, the advocates said that requiring automatic emergency braking technology could prevent more than 2,500 accidents annually.

Threat of carbon monoxide exposure at work rises in winter

Cold weather in Pennsylvania might tempt some workers to operate space heaters or portable generators in enclosed spaces. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, workers die every year after exposure to carbon monoxide when equipment that combusts fuel is used in such enclosed areas. Incidents of exposure increase during the winter months because workers want to stay warm. That's why OSHA issued a reminder to alert employers to train their employees about the hazards of carbon monoxide.

Since the gas has no odor, people must rely on medical symptoms or carbon monoxide detectors to warn them about rising gas levels. Exposure to the gas triggers headaches, dizziness, sleepiness, nausea or a constricted feeling in the chest. As exposure advances, people might suffer brain damage or die.

Speeding deaths continue to rise, says GHSA report

Speeding is a factor in nearly one-third of all automobile-related fatalities, according to a report from the Governors Highway Safety Association. Yet speeding is considered culturally acceptable among many drivers in Pennsylvania and across the U.S., and this mindset cannot be changed except through better education and stricter law enforcement, among other things.

This is the claim of the GHSA. In April 2019, the GHSA and the Institute for Highway Safety will be convening a forum with major stakeholders in the generation of a speeding reduction program. This can then be implemented by the GHSA's State Highway Safety Offices. Members of these state offices can do much to spearhead educational and enforcement efforts as well as coordinate stakeholder alliances.

Workers' compensation and utilization review

Utilization review is an important factor in many Pennsylvania workers' compensation cases. An employer, injured worker or insurer can make a utilization review request with the goal of determining whether the medical treatment being provided is in fact necessary and reasonable. Once the request is filed, the case will be sent to a utilization review organization. The URO will request relevant medical records and forward the records to a specialized reviewer.

The reviewer will then make a determination regarding the necessity and reasonableness of the treatment based on experience and medical standards. Typically, the reviewer's decision comes down roughly 65 days following the utilization review request. Injured workers have certain rights they can assert during a utilization review. For example, an injured worker can issue a statement regarding the effectiveness, reasonableness and necessity of the treatments involved. The worker also has the right to disagree with the final determination via petition.

Does workers comp cover back injuries in Pennsylvania?

Back injuries can make any job more difficult, but if you have a physically demanding job, you rely on your back every day. A back injury can make your job nearly impossible. You may be wondering what you can do if you received your back injury on the job. Does Pennsylvania law allow you to receive workers comp benefits?

Oil and gas drilling workers face dangerous working conditions

Certain occupations are more inherently dangerous than others. Pennsylvania's coal mining industry was at one time the cause of many deaths and injuries, but today, the oil and gas drilling industry is regularly listed among the most dangerous. OSHA requires employers to control or mitigate identified hazards. Despite this, deaths and severe injuries in the oil and gas fields continue to increase.

Government studies have revealed the oil and gas drilling industry has a mortality rate five times that of all other industries in the U.S., combined. This translates to over 1,500 deaths in a nine-year period, approximately the same number of American troops who lost their lives in Afghanistan during the same time period. OSHA regularly cites oil and gas companies. Well over half of these 10,000-plus citations over the past decade have been for "serious" issues, meaning those likely to result in severe injury or death.

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Stapp Law, LLC - Workers Compensation

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Williamsport, PA 17701

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