Articles Posted in Personal Injury Law

A new analysis by Construction Dive asks whether the construction industry has fought the spread of Covid-19 as well as conventional wisdom would suggest.

As the article notes, a potpourri of academic research, public health data, and media reports indicate that the industry has not fared so well. There have been concerning outbreaks across the country, with construction workplaces having the third highest number of outbreaks in Washington and Michigan, and the second highest number of clusters in Nashville, Tennessee. Meanwhile academic research indicates that Texas construction workers are five times likelier to be hospitalized as a result of Covid-19 than workers in other sectors, and a CDC study found that construction sites had the second highest number of cases in Utah.

While construction sites have generally been deemed essential workplaces, experts believe that their mitigation efforts—health screenings, PPE, social distancing—may not be enough to protect workers and communities from the spread of Covid-19. As an official at the Centers for Disease Control told Construction Dive, ““Outbreaks in construction sites may be very common… Capturing data on workplace outbreaks has been challenging for a lot of health departments, so national level data is not available.”

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration recently released a list of its most common Covid-19 citations in construction and other industries, in order “to help employers understand which OSHA standards have been cited most frequently during COVID-19 related inspections.” The document was based on data OSHA maintains regarding its citations and inspections, which it states it initiated after complaints, referrals, or fatalities in various industries, including: “hospitals and healthcare, nursing homes and long term care settings, and meat/poultry processing facilities.”

According to OSHA’s data, the most common citations dealt with respiratory protection. Workplaces were cited for failing to provide a medical evaluation before a worker used or was fit-tested for a respirator; omitting information in workers’ medical evaluations; failing to perform appropriate fit tests; failing to ensure fit tests whenever a different respirator face piece was use; and failing to administer a fit test using a standard protocol.

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Public health experts and epidemiologists strongly recommend that Americans do not travel for the Thanksgiving or Christmas holidays. For those that must travel—such as college students who cannot stay on campus—a few recent reports offer tips for traveling as safely as possible, to minimize the risk of Covid-19 transmission.

According to a recent Los Angeles Times report, some of the biggest transmission risks are airports, train stations, and highway rest stops where “it can be difficult to stay six feet away from others.” When it comes to air travel, experts recommend sitting in window seats and away from restrooms. The report quotes a University of California, San Francisco epidemiologist who said, “you want to sit as far away from the toilets as much as possible, which would minimize how often you’re near passengers walking past you…You want to be as far away from that action as possible.” He also advised that travelers fly with airlines that are leaving middle seats unoccupied.

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On average, there are about 200 bridge strikes—incidents in which a truck collides with a bridge—every year in New York. Bridge strikes put drivers and other motorists at risk of injury, cause traffic disruptions, and can require expensive repairs to the bridge that gets struck. Since 2015, according to officials, there have been over 1,100 bridge strikes in the state. That’s why Governor Andrew M. Cuomo recently announced an “enforcement and education campaign” to combat bridge strikes.

The campaign, a joint effort between the state Department of Transportation, the Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee, and the State Police, took place between November 9th and November 15th. It involved state troopers monitoring areas “where there have been documented bridge strikes by large commercial vehicles.” Continue reading

A study of American travel habits by Longwood International found that “half of American travelers are currently planning to stay home for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or New Year’s Eve,” and that about the same number feel that the Covid-19 pandemic “will greatly impact their travel decisions in the next six months.”

The study also found that 40% of Americans are planning to travel by car during the holidays, and less than 25% are planning to travel by plane. The research indicates that Americans’ holiday travel plans are divided evenly between the four major winter holidays: Thanksgiving, Christmas, Chanukah, and Kwanzaa. In a statement about the study, the company’s President and CEO, Amir Eylon, said: “With the number of new COVID cases rising in more than half the states, we can expect further disruption in family holiday travel plans… The number of actual holiday travelers in 2020 will likely be driven by the perceived safety and/or risk of taking such trips during the holiday period.” Continue reading

A deadly crash in Queens has sparked heated discussions about bicycle safety in New York City. As Gothamist reports, a 35-year-old delivery worker driving a motorized scooter, Alfredo Cabrera Liconia, “was killed by the driver of a Bud Light truck” last Thursday. Video of the incident shows Liconia’s Scooter “trapped under the wheels of the semi-truck, which appears to be making a right turn onto Crescent Street.” The collision occurred while the driver “appeared” to be turning right from Astoria Boulevard to Crescent Street, where trucks are not permitted unless they’re making deliveries. Gothamist reports that it was not clear whether Liconia was using the bike lane when struck.

One image of the truck reportedly captured it “crushing the flexible posts” separating the lane from vehicle lanes. These “flexi-posts” have been criticized by cycling accidents as too insubstantial to prevent vehicles from passing into protected bicycle lanes. A group of local lawmakers reportedly asked the city’s department of Transportation to replace the flexi-posts with “concrete jersey barriers” as a way of protecting cyclists from cars. Continue reading

One curious feature of the Covid-19 pandemic’s effects on American roadways is that while there were fewer vehicles on the roads, there was also an increase in reckless driving, accidents, and deaths.

As Axios reported in October, data provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found “traffic fatality rates increased 30%” in the second quarter of 2020. Officials attributed this spike to an increase in “risky behavior.” When researchers looked at patient data in trauma centers, they found that many “seriously injured or fatal crash victims” had been speeding, driving under the influence, and/or not wearing seatbelts. Researchers found specifically a higher presence of “alcohol, cannabinoids, and opioids” than in the same time period in previous years.

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Research conducted by State Farm Insurance indicates that the autumn months are when motorists are most at risk of crashes involving deer. Deer-vehicle accidents reach their peak in October, per a recent article by New York Upstate, though the risk persists until the end of January. As the article notes, the risk is so high in those months because they constitute both the mating season for deer, as well as a period of heightened activity as deer forage in advance of the winter months.

A 2018 analysis by State Farm estimates that the risk of hitting deer or other large mammals “doubles in the fall.” The risk of hitting deer is highest at the dawn and dusk hours, raising the need for drivers to be vigilant. State Farm advises drivers take a number of precautions, including: driving slowly, especially at dawn and dusk; wearing seatbelts; anticipating additional deer to follow any deer they see; using high beams, unless oncoming traffic are approaching; and avoiding distractions, such as phones or food. In the event that a driver encounters a deer, State Farm advises braking if possible, but not swerving, which “can result in a more severe crash.”

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A new study published online in JAMA Network Open finds that construction workers may be at high risk of Covid-19 infection. Conducted by researchers at The University of Texas at Austin and the Santa Fe Institute, the study asked whether construction work is associated with increased community transmission of Covid-19 as well as disproportionate fatalities in US construction workers. It examined hospitalization data in central Texas, finding that “construction workers had a nearly 5-fold increased risk of hospitalization in central Texas compared with other occupational categories.” Its authors conclude that this does not mean construction work must be halted, but that workplaces should take seriously the necessary safety measures and paid sick leave policies to protect vulnerable essential workers.

As the study notes in its introduction, early in the pandemic policymakers across the US differed in their views on the essentiality of construction work: “Boston, New York, and San Francisco severely restricted allowable projects. Other cities and states deemed commercial and home construction essential. Most of the nation’s 7.3 million construction workers remained employed throughout April and May of 2020, representing 4.5% of the labor workforce, ranging from 1.8% in the District of Columbia to 10.5% in Wyoming.” The authors note that because construction workers operate in close physical proximity to each other, construction sites have a higher than average risk of Covid-19 transmission. And because “Latinx populations are overly represented among construction and essential industries,” they have higher rates of exposure too, which are “compounded by prevalent high-risk comorbidities and lack of access to health care.” According to the authors, the combination of these risks is probably partly responsible for the higher rates of COVID-19 infection and fatality in Latinx communities.

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To keep children safe from vehicle accidents, cities need to develop more green space, build protected infrastructure for pedestrians and cyclists, keep speed limits low, close off some streets to cars entirely, and implement clean air initiatives. Thats the argument of a recent article in TheCityFix, a website covering urban issues in the US and around the world.

As many as 500 children die in car crashes each day, with magnitudes more suffering the long-term consequences of the trauma that results from nonfatal car accidents. TheCityFix argues that in order to become more “child-friendly, cities need to take bold, holistic public policy approaches that prioritize the needs of children. Continue reading

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