The tragic death of University of South Carolina student Samantha Josephson in late March has prompted calls from her family, state lawmakers and students to improve rideshare app safety. Josephson, who was 21 years old, got into a vehicle that she mistakenly believed was the Uber she had called for a ride home. She was found dead within hours of getting in the vehicle, on March 29. The driver of the vehicle, 24-year-old Nathaniel Rowland, was charged with kidnapping and murder.

Although Rowland didn’t drive for Uber, South Carolina State Representatives introduced a bill called the Samantha L. Josephson Ridesharing Safety Act that would require all Uber, Lyft and other rideshare drivers to display illuminated signs in their vehicles. The bill has passed the South Carolina House and is awaiting Senate review. Other states, including New York and North Carolina, have since followed in South Carolina’s path and introduced similar bills.

Uber’s Response to Safety Concerns

In an article published in The State, Uber responded to Josephson’s death by saying that the company has worked with police and colleges throughout the country to educate the public about how to avoid fake rideshare drivers. The company said it remains focused on increasing public awareness about this issue.

Safety Tips

Here are some safety tips to correctly identify your rideshare vehicle and to help stay safe in rideshares:

  • Carefully review the information about the driver and vehicle provided by your rideshare app. For example, when ordering a vehicle with Uber, you should be able to see the driver’s name and photo, and the car’s make, model and license plate number. Lyft provides similar information.
  • Before getting in a vehicle, ask the driver what your name is. If they can’t tell you, walk away.
  • Both Lyft and Uber have share features so you can share your ride information and estimated arrival time with a loved one. This can be a smart feature to use so someone else knows where you are at all times during your ride.
  • Sit in the back seat if possible, in case you need to exit the vehicle quickly.

Additionally, if you feel uncomfortable with the rideshare driver or vehicle, don’t get in it. Cancel the ride. If you are already in the vehicle and you feel in danger, use the 911 button in your app, which will give the operator your trip information. This button may also be valuable to quickly call for emergency assistance should the vehicle be in an accident.

If you are injured in a rideshare accident, it can be worthwhile to consult with a car accident attorney who has handled rideshare cases. The question of whose insurance—the rideshare driver’s, the rideshare company’s, or that of a third party who may have caused the accident–will cover your injuries can be complicated. An experienced attorney can help answer that question.

Experienced Columbia, SC Personal Injury Attorneys

Our knowledgeable car accident attorneys at the Louthian Law Firm are here to help you understand your options. Contact us at (803) 454-1200 or fill out our online form to schedule a free, no-obligation, consultation.

A recent report on CBS’s 60 Minutes shined a big spotlight on railroad safety. The report highlights several crashes over the past few years that some experts say could have been prevented if positive train control had been in place.

What Is Positive Train Control?

Positive train control, or PTC, is an advanced system that uses GPS and other technologies to prevent derailments by speeding trains, accidents from track switches being in the wrong position, and train-to-train crashes. Basically, it applies automatic braking in dangerous situations. The system was originally mandated by the U.S. Congress to be in place on all major railroads beginning in 2015. However, that mandate was later extended to 2020.

The mandate to implement PTC was originally put in place after a head-to-head crash between two trains in Chatsworth, California, that killed 25 people and injured 135 in 2008. Since that time, according to the 60 Minutes report, there have been 22 more train crashes that resulted in 29 more people losing their lives and over 500 injuries.

Cayce Crash

One of those 22 crashes that South Carolinians will remember was last year’s collision in Cayce between a CSX freight train and an Amtrak passenger train. The crash was caused by a track switch left in the wrong position and killed two crew members on the Amtrak train and injured dozens of people. Since the wreck, which safety experts said could have been prevented using positive train control, the system has reportedly been put in place on all major tracks in the state. The tracks are operated by CSX and Norfolk Southern. Amtrak also reportedly has the technology in place for its trains going through the state to interact with the system. The implementation of PTC is a positive step.

Other Rail Safety Concerns

While positive train control can stop many train accidents from happening, it can’t prevent all of them. Sometimes safety issues outside of what PTC can control are at play. One of the most common causes of fatalities related to trains are railroad crossings, where trains may crash with cars, trucks, buses and other motor vehicles, as well as pedestrians. Hundreds of people die each year in these accidents and hundreds more are injured. Sometimes the crossings are poorly designed, making it difficult or confusing for motorists to see approaching trains, and sometimes rail crossing arms malfunction.

Broken tracks, poorly maintained engines and railcars, mechanical failures on trains and additional dangers cause train wrecks and resulting fatalities and injuries. As exemplified by the Cayce crash, it isn’t only train passengers or people at rail crossings who suffer injuries or are killed. Train workers have a significant death and injury rate. Nationwide in 2018, 17 railroad workers died on the job and nearly 4,000 were injured, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

Highway 61 may be scenic, but its beauty is sadly compromised by its danger. According to data from the South Carolina Department of Public Safety, over the past 10 years, 52 people have lost their lives in car accidents on the approximately 65-mile-long road, which travels from Bamberg County to Charleston’s West Ashley district. Last year, there were five people killed. The deadliest year during the last decade was 2011, when seven people died. Charleston County leads the way in deaths.

Here is the breakdown of fatalities by county for the entire 10-year period:

  • Charleston: 18
  • Dorchester: 17
  • Colleton: 15
  • Bamberg: 2

Why Are There So Many Deadly Car Accidents on Highway 61?

One SCDOT official said the No. 1 cause of serious injuries and deaths on the roadway is people driving off the highway and striking trees and other fixed objects. There is a lack of shoulders on the highway, which allows little room for drivers to correct if they make driving errors. Possibly contributing to the dangers for drivers are the greatly increased amount of traffic on the highway in recent years and the darkness of the highway at night.

Improvement Plans

Plans are in the works to add a four-foot-wide shoulder with rumble strips to major portions of the highway, especially in the most deadly areas. SCDOT has completed surveying work from the Givhans state park area to the Charleston/Dorchester County line. There were delays to the project caused by a refocusing of work effort when Hurricane Florence slammed into the state last year. More improvement work is planned.

SCDOT says that hearings are also planned for the spring to get public input about the safety improvement project. If you are interested in attending a hearing, check the SCDOT website’s programs and projects pages for updated scheduling information.

Safe Driving Tips

Drivers can reduce their chances of being in a car wreck on Highway 61 and any other roadway by always practicing safe driving. Here are some basic tips for helping keep yourself and others safe on the road:

  • Adhere to posted speed limits. Give yourself plenty of time to get where you are going so you don’t feel pressured to speed or otherwise drive aggressively.
  • Be sure your headlights are in good working order for traveling dark roads at night.
  • Avoid distractions while driving. Keep your cell phone in your purse, in the back seat, or in another area where it isn’t easily accessible and you aren’t tempted to reach for it. Texting and use of other electronics behind the wheel are the No. 1 cause of distracted driving accidents.
  • Don’t drink and drive. If you have had too much to drink, arrange an alternate form of transportation or stay where you are for the night, if possible.
  • Pay attention to other vehicles on the roadway. If someone is swerving or showing other signs that they might be driving under the influence, distance yourself from the vehicle and then call 911 to report it.

Let Columbia’s Louthian Law Firm Help

If you’ve been injured in a car accident, contact our experienced  injury attorneys. If you’ve been injured by a negligent driver, it’s important to act quickly. The statute of limitations in personal injury claims is three years, unless the negligent driver was driving a city, county or state vehicle, in which case the statute of limitation is two years. However, it’s always best to begin the process as soon as possible to ensure you have time to build a solid case and receive compensation in a timely manner. Call us at 803-454-1200 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.

In December 2014, 13-year-old Patrick Terry was killed in a tragic accident at the Club MX motocross course in Chesterfield, S.C. The accident happened when Patrick went over a jump and a more experienced rider came up behind him, made the jump, and landed right on the boy’s back.

“He died right before he got to the hospital,” reports the boy’s father, Ed Terry.

Terry blames himself for his son’s death, but he also blames the Club MX motocross facility. He believes the accident was caused in large part by a lack of safety equipment and practices that could have warned the rider that Patrick Terry was on the other side of the jump.

Ed Terry is currently in a wrongful death lawsuit with Club MX concerning their lack of safety implements. The case may come to a jury trial later in 2019. But this case brings a larger issue to light: like many states, South Carolina does not have safety regulations for motocross tracks.

No Enforcement Without Regulation

The American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) has a set of regulations for official AMA racing events. These regulations include things like separating riders by their level of experience and having flaggers on the track to warn riders of potentially dangerous conditions.

However, there are no standards for the everyday safety and functioning of motocross tracks. South Carolina is not alone in this; according to the AMA, very few states have any official regulations on motocross tracks.

This means official racing events are pretty well regulated, but the everyday running of these dirt-bike tracks doesn’t have any strong regulation. Ed Terry said, “The AMA can come up with all these rules, but if there’s no legislative teeth involved there’s no forcing anybody to comply with anything.”

Thoughts About Regulation in the Senate

State senators have mixed opinions about the need for government action on the motocross problem. Charleston State Senator Sandy Senn said, “I feel so much for the family in this case, but when you decide to undergo a dangerous sport, you do so undertaking it under your own risk.”

State Senator Thomas Alexander admitted that Patrick Terry’s death was a tragedy, but when asked about the need for regulation, he said, “I don’t know. We need to evaluate the role of government in the regulation of these things, but it certainly will warrant a conversation with [The Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation] about tracks such as this, and not just this particular one.”

It is not clear at this time whether the state government will move to take action on motocross regulation or not.

Almost everyone loves babies. There were 56,543 little bundles of joy delivered in South Carolina in 2013, presumably quite a few of them in September since nationally the months of August, September and October have the highest birth rates. Maybe that’s one reason the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA) chose September as Baby Safety Month back in 1991.

JPMA is a national trade organization of more than 250 companies in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. Their goal is to protect children in the preschool years, in part through product performance evaluation and certification. And there are a lot of products on the market for kids: Manufacturers of juvenile products had approximately $2.97 billion in sales in the U.S. in 2012.

In addition to manufacturer advocacy groups, several government organizations exist to protect consumers from poorly designed, defective or dangerous products for children. We have written about recalls of child safety seats, which are under the oversight of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Another agency, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has recalled of all sorts of consumer goods, from air rifles to zippers, and you can use their website (SaferProducts.gov) to research a category you’re interested in.

In observation of Baby Safety Month, we are listing below the infant products recalled by the CPSC during the past 12 months.

If you have children in your home or family, we suggest you read through this list to make sure you aren’t unknowingly exposing them to the risk of injury from these products.

  1. Angelcare Movement and Sound Baby Monitors – The cord attached to the baby monitor’s sensor pad is placed under the crib mattress, which poses a strangulation risk if the child pulls the cord into the crib and it becomes wrapped around the neck.
  2. Tommee Tippee® Monitor with Movement Sensor Pad – Child can pull sensor pad cord into crib and wrap around the neck, posing a strangulation hazard.
  3. BebeLove™ Baby Walkers – The walkers failed to meet federal safety standards. Specifically, style number 358 can fit through a standard doorway and is not designed to stop at the edge of a step as required by the federal safety standard. In addition, style number 368 contains leg openings that allow the child to slip down until the child’s head can become entrapped at the neck. Babies using these walkers can be seriously injured or killed.
  4. J. Crew Baby Coveralls – Snaps on the coveralls can detach, posing a choking hazard to young children.
  5. Franklin & Ben Mason 4-in-1 Convertible Cribs – The crib front can separate from the side panels and create a hazardous gap that can allow a child to fall out or become entrapped between the front and side panels.
  6. Oeuf Sparrow Cribs – The slats/spindles and top rail can detach from the cribs and pose an entrapment hazard to a child.
  7. Joovy Zoom Car Seat Adapter – Adapter clips can loosen on the stroller frame, posing a fall hazard.
  8. Playtex Hip Hammock infant carriers – The buckles on the waist and shoulder straps can crack or break, posing a fall hazard to the child.
  9. Fred & Friends Chill Baby Artiste, Volume and Panic pacifiers – The pacifiers fail to meet federal safety standards. The beard on the Artiste and the knob on the Volume pacifiers can detach, posing a choking hazard to young children. In addition, the ventilation holes on the Volume and Panic pacifier guards are too small.
  10. Playtex pacifier holder clips – The pacifier holder clips can crack and a small part can break off which poses a choking hazard to small children.
  11. Vera Bradley Bear Ring Rattles and Bunny Stuffed Toys – The pom-pom tail can detach from the body of the bear rattle and the bunny, posing a choking hazard to young children.
  12. Midwest- CBK baby rattles – The head on the rattle can detach, posing a choking hazard to young children.
  13. Manhattan Toy® Quixel™ baby rattles – The colored arches can break, creating a small part which poses a choking hazard to small children.
  14. phil&teds Travel System 26 infant car seat adaptors for strollers – The plastic adaptors used to connect an infant car seat to a stroller can crack, become unstable and break during use, posing a fall hazard to infants.
  15. Britax B-Agile, B-Agile Double and BOB Motion strollers – The hinge on the stroller’s folding mechanism can partially amputate consumers’ fingertips, break their fingers or cause severe lacerations, among other injuries, when they press the release button while pulling on the release strap.
  16. Dream on Me Lullaby Cradle Glider – The mattress support board can fall out or slide out of the bottom of the cradle glider posing a risk that babies can fall out and suffer injuries.
  17. Infantino Go Gaga Squeeze & Teethe Coco the Monkey – The tail of the monkey can pose a choking hazard to young children.

If you believe you have been injured by a recalled product, you may be able to file a lawsuit to recover damages. Contact our attorneys for a free consultation on your case.

If you’re like most parents nowadays, you’re looking every year for something to make your child’s birthday party special. Pin the Tail on the Donkey gave way long ago to more adventurous activities, things like the increasingly popular bounce house, set up in your own backyard by one of thousands of party rental companies. Kids think they’re loads of fun, and parents assume they’re safe… that is, until an accident happens and a child is injured or killed. You should be aware that injuries on inflatable amusement structures are not uncommon.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) estimates that more than 4,000 emergency room visits a year in the United States are linked to inflatables. Bounce houses (also known as moon-bounces) cause the vast majority of injuries, but they’re not the only inflatable amusement attractions. Slides, obstacle courses, climbing walls and interactive (such as boxing or jousting) inflatables also feature in the accident statistics.

Nor are inflatables found only at birthday parties. They’re popular attractions at church and school events, fairs, festivals, grand openings and athletic competitions. As their popularity has increased over the last decade, so have injuries and fatalities. A report from the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, says that in 2010 alone, 30 children a day were treated for these injuries in hospital emergency departments. The number of injuries increased from 702 in 1995 to 11,311 in 2010.

Injuries sustained in inflatables include concussions, neck injuries, broken bones, and cuts and bruises. By far, the most dangerous inflatable attractions are bounce houses. The largest number of injuries in these occur to children between the ages of 3 and 11 years old. Just last month there were two such accidents in the news:

  • On May 12, 2014, in South Glen Falls, N.Y., two boys, 5 and 6 years old, were seriously injured when they fell out of a privately owned 10-by-10 bouncy castle. The structure was staked to the ground, but strong winds lifted it at least 50 feet in the air. One boy landed on a parked car and the other fell to the asphalt. They were airlifted to a medical center with head injuries and broken bones.
  • On May 31, 2014, a bounce house in Littleton, Colo., was picked up by a gust of wind, tumbling 300 feet across an athletic field during a lacrosse tournament. It was “like a bag in the wind,” according to one observer. Two 10-year-olds were injured, one hospitalized. This accident was similar to one in 2011 during a soccer tournament in Oceanside, N.Y., when 13 children were injured in a bounce house.

Even worse than serious injuries are the fatalities suffered on inflatable structures. Since 2002, the CPSC has documented 4 U.S. deaths involving different inflatable attractions:

  • In 2002, a 21-year-old man in Florida broke his neck and died while jumping in an inflatable bounce.
  • In 2003, a 15-year-old boy in Illinois died four days after he fell off an inflatable obstacle course slide and sustained a traumatic brain injury.
  • In 2004, an 18-year-old Minnesota male died from a head injury suffered in a fall from an inflatable slide.
  • In 2005, a 25-year-old woman in Massachusetts died after falling from a 28-foot inflatable climbing wall and striking her head on pavement.

You’ll note that those killed were between the ages of 15 and 25, whereas most nonfatal injuries occur in children aged 3 to 11.

What are the causes of inflatable ride injuries? Environmental conditions (wind, rain), operator error (inattentive, untrained), equipment failure (worn cables, faulty patches, sudden deflation due to blower failure), overcrowding, rough housing, and mixing of age groups.

Who is responsible for the safety of inflatable amusements? The CPSC regulates how amusement rides are manufactured, but there is no federal oversight as to how they are set up, maintained or operated. That is left up to the states, and the rules vary widely. In South Carolina, the regulation and inspection of amusement rides is done by the Office of Elevators and Amusement Rides – but they do not regulate or inspect air-supported structures.

So how can you protect your children, and maybe even yourself, from injury on an inflatable?

  • Avoid use during high winds.
  • Make sure there is a tarp on the ground to protect the bottom of the unit.
  • Check to see that the inflatable is moored to the ground using every anchor point provided plus sandbags or weights.
  • There should be no visible rips or tears.
  • The unit should be fully inflated and not saggy.
  • A responsible adult must supervise the inflatable amusement ride at all times.
  • Before being allowed to enter an inflatable unit, people should remove shoes, jewelry, eyeglasses, hair clips, and other sharp objects that may injure others.
  • No food, drink or gum allowed in the unit.
  • No flips or rough play allowed in a bounce house.
  • Do not let children sit or lie down while others bounce.
  • If winds pick up or you see rain or lightning, get everyone out of the inflatable and turn off the blower motor.