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Factors Behind Rise in Deadly Tractor-Trailer Crashes, Difficulties in Victims’ Cases
Factors Behind Rise in Deadly Tractor-Trailer Crashes, Difficulties in Victims’ Cases

By: Dan Hausman

After years of a reduced number of deaths from large truck crashes across the U.S., the number of fatalities has risen back to 2008 levels according to the most recent data published by the U.S. Department of Transportation (“DOT”). Alarmingly, people who were not occupants of the trucks themselves made up 83% of the total deaths. 72% were in other vehicles and 11% were not occupying any vehicle as they were pedestrians or bicyclists.

Crashes involving trucks are clearly very different from crashes involving only smaller vehicles – differences which can increase risks of serious and fatal consequences, and the challenges victims and families face in the aftermath. Some of those differences are outlined below.

Severity of Damages

Crashes or accidents involving large trucks and 18 wheelers are typically much more likely to cause serious and catastrophic injuries. The physics behind weights in excess of 40 tons and high highway speeds slamming into smaller vehicles often lead to devastating damages. Even very low speed crashes or accidents can lead to severe injury. Cars or pedestrians can get stuck in the under carriage of a truck due to the height of the truck.

Unfortunately, as we discussed in a recent blog, even though the risks are well-known and fatality rates are on the rise, federal regulators are falling short in stemming the tide to pass rules which address these types of issues. That includes laws requiring side-underride guards to prevent victims from sliding under commercial rigs, employing crash avoidance technology proven to reduce the severity of damages, and implementing other highly recommended safety improvements.

The Complexity of the Crash

Large truck crashes are complicated for numerous reasons. Large truck crashes or accidents often involve multiple vehicles because the trucks are so large that they impact many vehicles when something goes wrong. Both federal and state laws are implicated in truck crashes and deal with issues such as insurance, record keeping and driving logs, and maintenance standards. The weight and size of the load and safety equipment on a truck are also factors in crashes and must be examined as quickly as possible, along with black boxes or other recording devices, after a crash.

Driver Safety

Encouragingly, large truck drivers appear to be safer drivers according to the DOT. Large truck drivers involved in fatal crashes had a blood alcohol level over the legal limit in 2% of cases whereas other vehicle type drivers had an over the limit blood alcohol level in over 20% of cases. Large truck drivers also had fewer recorded suspensions or revocations of driver licenses and fewer speeding convictions when compared to drivers of other vehicle types when considering the amount of time spent on the road. Additionally, many truck driver’s takes safety courses as part of fulfilling the requirements for employment and to hold a Commercial Driver License.

Unfortunately, large truck drivers can be pushed beyond their limits due to over scheduling and other demands of their job. Sometimes truck drivers are taking simulants or are too tired to drive safely.

The Difficulty of Obtaining Compensation

Finally, even when someone has done nothing wrong and is severely injured, or when families lose a loved one to wrongful death, they often have difficulty getting the justice they deserve. Beyond the fault attributable to the truck driver, a single truck has many companies that may also be liable for a specific crash including the owner of the truck, the dispatcher, and the maintenance company. These companies all have their own attorneys and insurance companies who often point the finger at each other. Sorting through the blame game can be quite complicated.

CSCS: Serving Victims Across the DC Region

As a firm that represents car accident and truck accident victims in difficult cases throughout Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia, Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C. is available to help anyone who is involved in a crash involving a large truck. Our team of experienced attorneys can help you better understand your rights and available options. If you or anyone you know has been injured in a large truck collision, you should contact the personal injury attorneys at Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C. for a free consultation.

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  • Factors Behind Rise in Deadly Tractor-Trailer Crashes, Difficulties in Victims’ Cases

    By: Dan Hausman

    After years of a reduced number of deaths from large truck crashes across the U.S., the number of fatalities has risen back to 2008 levels according to the most recent data published by the U.S. Department of Transportation (“DOT”). Alarmingly, people who were not occupants of the trucks themselves made up 83% of the total deaths. 72% were in other vehicles and 11% were not occupying any vehicle as they were pedestrians or bicyclists.

    Crashes involving trucks are clearly very different from crashes involving only smaller vehicles – differences which can increase risks of serious and fatal consequences, and the challenges victims and families face in the aftermath. Some of those differences are outlined below.

    Severity of Damages

    Crashes or accidents involving large trucks and 18 wheelers are typically much more likely to cause serious and catastrophic injuries. The physics behind weights in excess of 40 tons and high highway speeds slamming into smaller vehicles often lead to devastating damages. Even very low speed crashes or accidents can lead to severe injury. Cars or pedestrians can get stuck in the under carriage of a truck due to the height of the truck.

    Unfortunately, as we discussed in a recent blog, even though the risks are well-known and fatality rates are on the rise, federal regulators are falling short in stemming the tide to pass rules which address these types of issues. That includes laws requiring side-underride guards to prevent victims from sliding under commercial rigs, employing crash avoidance technology proven to reduce the severity of damages, and implementing other highly recommended safety improvements.

    The Complexity of the Crash

    Large truck crashes are complicated for numerous reasons. Large truck crashes or accidents often involve multiple vehicles because the trucks are so large that they impact many vehicles when something goes wrong. Both federal and state laws are implicated in truck crashes and deal with issues such as insurance, record keeping and driving logs, and maintenance standards. The weight and size of the load and safety equipment on a truck are also factors in crashes and must be examined as quickly as possible, along with black boxes or other recording devices, after a crash.

    Driver Safety

    Encouragingly, large truck drivers appear to be safer drivers according to the DOT. Large truck drivers involved in fatal crashes had a blood alcohol level over the legal limit in 2% of cases whereas other vehicle type drivers had an over the limit blood alcohol level in over 20% of cases. Large truck drivers also had fewer recorded suspensions or revocations of driver licenses and fewer speeding convictions when compared to drivers of other vehicle types when considering the amount of time spent on the road. Additionally, many truck driver’s takes safety courses as part of fulfilling the requirements for employment and to hold a Commercial Driver License.

    Unfortunately, large truck drivers can be pushed beyond their limits due to over scheduling and other demands of their job. Sometimes truck drivers are taking simulants or are too tired to drive safely.

    The Difficulty of Obtaining Compensation

    Finally, even when someone has done nothing wrong and is severely injured, or when families lose a loved one to wrongful death, they often have difficulty getting the justice they deserve. Beyond the fault attributable to the truck driver, a single truck has many companies that may also be liable for a specific crash including the owner of the truck, the dispatcher, and the maintenance company. These companies all have their own attorneys and insurance companies who often point the finger at each other. Sorting through the blame game can be quite complicated.

    CSCS: Serving Victims Across the DC Region

    As a firm that represents car accident and truck accident victims in difficult cases throughout Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia, Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C. is available to help anyone who is involved in a crash involving a large truck. Our team of experienced attorneys can help you better understand your rights and available options. If you or anyone you know has been injured in a large truck collision, you should contact the personal injury attorneys at Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C. for a free consultation.

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  • As Truck Accident Fatalities Increase, Federal Regulators Are Still Reluctant to Require Crash-Avoidance Technologies

    By: Allan M. Siegel

    Traffic collisions involving tractor-trailers and other large-scale commercial trucks are more likely to result in devastating outcomes, serious injuries, and death than motor vehicle wrecks involving smaller passenger vehicles. Because these risks are well known, there are numerous laws and regulations designed specifically to reduce them. Those which apply to interstate trucking operations are enforced by the federal government.

    Our legal team at Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C. has seen many truck accidents result directly from the negligence and failures of truck drivers or trucking companies that fail to comply with the law, which is why we know commercial carrier regulations are and always will be of critical importance to public safety. Not only do they deter commercial trucking operators from taking dangerous shortcuts or making careless mistakes, and provide for accountability when they do, federal trucking regulations can also help reduce the severity of wrecks, or the risks for more catastrophic and deadly injuries.

    Truck Accident Death Toll Rising in the U.S.

    Unfortunately, as we’ve blogged about many times before, federal regulations don’t always go far enough to protect the public and ensure commercial carriers take steps they know can save lives. That’s been precisely the case when it comes to stagnated measures to mandate side underride guards on tractor-trailers and decisions to not implement regulations for truckers diagnosed with sleep apnea, a condition that makes them far more likely to crash than drivers without it. It’s also been the case with reputable and proven trucking safety technologies.

    The consequences of not implementing safety measures that can and will protect the public are inevitably steep. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), for example, trucking accidents have been causing more and more fatalities over recent years. In 2016, accidents involving commercial trucks claimed the lives more than 4,300 people. That’s an almost 30% increase from the number of trucking-related deaths record in 2009. The steady rise in trucking accident cases being resolved through mega verdicts also speaks to the growing devastation of these wrecks.

    Where Regulators Are Falling Short

    The increasing number of trucking-related fatalities is a clear and concerning trend that demands intervention. But according to many advocates, lawmakers, and surviving relatives with loved ones killed in trucking collisions, those in position to intervene are consistently falling short. If those same fatality statistics were reported in connection to commercial airline accidents or even railroad and train accidents, they say, regulators would be scrambling to crack down.

    Because that hasn’t been the case in the trucking industry, here are few examples of how federal regulatory oversight is falling short when it comes to safety technology:

    • Crash-Avoidance Technology – While trucking collisions can take many forms, experts agree wrecks where commercial carriers rear-end passenger vehicles are among the most dangerous and deadly. They may also be some of the easiest to prevent with new and readily available safety technologies, including crash-avoidance technology. Although crash-avoidance technology has been recommended for more than 20 years as a “Most Wanted” safety improvement by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), a federal agency that investigates major transportation accidents and makes recommendations to agencies with the power to pass and enforce regulations, the NHTSA still has yet to make them a mandatory feature on large commercial trucks. A standard feature in most consumer vehicles sold today, and a required feature in commercial trucks in the European Union and other countries, crash-avoidance technology has been proven help avoid and prevent read-end collisions. Still, federal regulators haven’t so much as proposed a regulatory update featuring the technology.
    • Automated Emergency BrakingSpeeding is one of the leading causes of preventable traffic accidents, and can increase the risks of deadly injuries. When speeding vehicles are commercial trucks that can weigh as much as 80,000 pounds, those risks increase exponentially. While some states enforce lower speed limits for trucks, research has shown required use of safety technologies like automated emergency braking can ensure there are proven measures in place when drivers don’t abide by the law. Not only can help prevent wrecks or rear-end collisions entirely, they can also reduce speeds in the critical moments leading up to a crash, reducing the force of impact and potential for more serious injuries.
    • Electronic Logs – While regulators recently implemented a new rule requiring interstate truck to use electronic logging devices as a means to improve oversight of Hours-of-Service violations and other rules, the trucking industry has vehemently opposed their use. Industry companies and lobbyists continually attack e-logs, and while they have not succeeded in having them dropped from the rulebook altogether, they are looking to expand on concessions they already worked for in order to exempt more carriers and reduce requirements. Those concessions, described by the industry as necessary “wiggle room,” are more about saving trucking operators money than they are about the logistics of compliance or, more importantly, public safety.

    As experts note, these technologies have been implemented elsewhere with proven results, and would have a direct impact on stemming the rising numbers of truck accident fatalities in the U.S. While that may be clear to many, advocates say regulators are still dismissing recommendations due to purported ongoing research and testing. More likely, though, it’s the result of trucking industry and corporate lobbyists who flood money into politics as a means to protect their own interests.

    CSCS: Fighting for Victims of Preventable Crashes

    Raising awareness about these issues will be the greatest tool we have when it comes to passing meaningful regulations that can better protect public safety. Even then, preventable accidents, injuries, and deaths will remain serious risks, especially when those in a position to reduce them act negligently.

    Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C. is a nationally recognized personal injury law firm that has represented many victims and families following commercial truck accidents. If you or someone you love has been injured in a collision involving a tractor-trailer or any other commercial vehicle, our award-winning legal team is available to help you take your first steps toward the justice and compensation you deserve. Call (202) 644-8303 or contact us online to request a free case evaluation.

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  • Will My Car Accident Case Settle?

    By: Dan Hausman

    When I first meet a client, they will often ask me this question. While most car accident cases settle, when they settle, and how much they settle for is dependent on a number of factors.

    Victims of car crashes are often made an offer to settle their personal injury claims by the wrongdoer’s automobile insurance company soon after a crash is reported to the insurance company. Typically, an adjuster (a person who works for the insurance company) will call a victim and request a recorded statement. They will often make a very quick offer to settle the case, before the victim gets a lawyer, in the hopes that the victim will settle the case for less than it is actually worth. You should always consult with a lawyer before you accept this initial offer. The first consultation is always free, so it will not cost you anything to ensure you do not make a costly mistake.

    When I speak on the phone with victims during a free consultation, I am often asked many questions about settlement with the wrongdoer’s insurance company. Below are some answers to some commonly asked questions about car crash settlements.

    Why Do Car Accident Cases Settle?

    In most car crashes, it is obvious who was at fault for the crash. Crashes that involve a rear-end collision, a driver pulling in front of oncoming traffic or going the wrong way, an intoxicated driver, or a speeder are typically not contested as to who caused the crash. These cases will often settle, but not until the victim is finished receiving medical care. However, often the insurance company will low ball the victim, and not offer fair compensation for the injuries suffered. In these cases, we must file a lawsuit, to get our clients fair compensation.

    How Much is My Case Worth?

    To estimate the value of your case requires a detailed review of all of the facts. Every case is different. Some of the determining factors which may influence your ultimate recovery include the extent of your injuries, what treatment you received for your injuries and how much the treatment cost, lost wages from your job, the amount of property damage to your vehicle, and the insurance coverage of the victim and the wrongdoer.

    Do I Need a Lawyer?

    While car accident cases can and do settle without the victim being represented by a lawyer, one must remember that insurance companies are businesses that attempt to systematically pay as little as possible to resolve personal injury claims in order to keep profits high. Insurance companies use the knowledge and experience advantage they have to get themselves a good deal on settlement at the expense of unrepresented victims. An experienced attorney can level the playing field. The attorney can evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of your case and pose a threat to an insurance company of a large jury award at trial. Insurance companies often settle for a fair amount with attorneys rather than take the risk of going to trial.

    If you are a victim of a car crash and you are thinking about your settlement options, the attorneys at Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C. are more than happy to offer a free consultation to discuss your case. You can contact us online or call (202) 644-8303 any time that is convenient for you.

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  • DC Lawmakers Sign Sexual Abuse Amendment Act to Expand Statute of Limitations in Criminal Prosecutions & Civil Claims, Allow Cases Barred by Previous Time Restrictions to Move Forward

    On Wednesday, January 23, 2019, District of Columbia lawmakers signed a proposed bill into law to limit restrictions on prosecuting sexual abuse offenders, and enable more survivors to come forward with their claims. The bill (D.C. Act 22-593) is being viewed as a major victory by victims’ advocates, and brings D.C.’s policies more closely in line with those in Maryland and Virginia, as well as a number of other states across the country

    About the DC Sexual Abuse Statute of Limitations Amendment Act

    The “Sexual Abuse Statute of Limitations Amendment Act of 2018,” is hailed as a long-overdue reform of D.C.’s restrictive laws barring criminal prosecutions and civil liability in matters of sexual abuse if a certain amount of time has passed since the abuse took place, and creates new policies which better benefit victims. A statute of limitations, or “SOL” for short, is the maximum time after an event occurred when legal proceedings may be initiated under the applicable law.

    Changes under the Act will have a sweeping impact on the way both criminal and civil cases involving sexual abuse are handled in the District, and apply to every sexual abuse claim for which the SOL has not yet expired, as well as some claims for which the SOL has expired for just a small window of time.

    Below are a few important details about the Act and its major components.

    Criminal Prosecution: DC’s Sex Abuse Statute of Limitations Eliminated

    Unlike Maryland, Virginia, and many other states that have no time limit for when individuals accused of sexual abuse can be criminally charged (similar to other serious crimes like murder), the District previously employed a 15-year SOL for the criminal prosecution of most sexual abuse cases. Under the new Act, there will be no time limit by which a case must be brought for many sexual abuse offenses, including:

    • First, second, third, and fourth-degree sexual abuse
    • First- and second-degree child sexual abuse / sexual abuse of a minor
    • First- and second-degree sexual abuse of a secondary education student
    • First-and second-degree sexual abuse of a patient, client, or ward

    The Act also requires police to keep evidence related to certain sex crimes for 65 years from the date of first reporting, eliminates the practice of using fictitious name indictments, and extends the statute of limitations for prosecuting those who fail to report child abuse and neglect as required by law – an issue advocates say allows many offenders to go unpunished and able to abuse others, and something that has been a particular scourge in high profiles cases like the Penn State - Jerry Sandusky scandal, and the Catholic Church’s decades of concealment and cover-ups.

    Civil Sexual Abuse Lawsuits: More Time for Survivors to Step Forward

    One of the most important aspects of the Act is that it goes beyond extending the statute of limitations in criminal sex abuse cases, which may provide victims with a sense of justice when their abusers are convicted and held accountable for their crimes, but do little to provide them with a viable source of compensation for the profound damages, pain and suffering, and emotional injuries they’ve incurred as a result.

    Under the previous law and its restrictive time limits, many survivors, and especially those abused as children and minors, were often barred or faced difficulties when bringing civil sexual abuse lawsuits. For example, the old law required victims abused as minors to bring claims within 7 years from when they turned 18, or, in the case of repressed memories of the abuse,3 years from when they knew, or reasonably should have known, of any act that would be considered abuse. For those abused as adults, the statute of limitations was just 3 years from the date they knew, or reasonably should have known, of any abusive act.

    Changes under the new Act, which updates section 12-301 of the DC Official Code and extends the civil statute of limitations for victims to recover damages arising from sexual abuse:

    • Victims under 35 – In cases where sexual abuse occurred when the victim was less than 35 years old, they can bring civil claims for compensation any time up to the age of 40, OR 5 years from when they knew or reasonably should have known of a sexually abusive act, whichever is later.
    • Victims 35 or older – In cases where victims were 35 years of age or older, they may bring civil claims within 5 years from when they knew or should have known of the abusive act.
    • 2-year revival period – In addition to extending the SOL for civil sex abuse claims, the Act also creates a 2-year “revival period” for claims that have already expired under the old statute of limitations. That means there is now a 2-year window in which victims can bring previously barred claims now allowed under the new statute of limitations.

    A Victory for Survivors & The Journey Ahead

    As a law firm that has been fighting for victims and survivors across Washington, DC, Virginia, and Maryland for over 45 years, Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C. applauds local lawmakers on passing meaningful legislation. The Act now aligns DC’s sexual abuse policies more closely with those in other more “victim-supportive” states, and is representative of the tremendous outpouring of support, advocacy, and activism we have seen in recent years.

    The power of those efforts cannot be understated, and legislative changes like those enacted in DC can be traced to the incendiary spark of things like the #MeToo movement, the Catholic Church and USA Gymnastics / MSU sex abuse scandals, and other high profile sexual abuse and sexual assault cases – including cases handled by our firm’s own attorneys, such as:

    • Partner Joseph Cammarata’s representation of seven women in a defamation lawsuit against Bill Cosby, recently convicted of sexual assault and now imprisoned.
    • Partner Cammarata’s representation of Paula Jones in a sexual harassment lawsuit, which precipitated Clinton’s impeachment and has gained renewed interest and relevancy.
    • Our firm’s co-counsel representation of numerous women who were victimized by local DC Rabbi Bernard Freundel, who was also recently convicted and is now incarcerated.

    DC’s new sex abuse laws, and other pending initiatives like it across the country, are major victories for victims and survivors, and they should be celebrated. However, using those laws to effectively bring these claims in civil court, and prevail, is a difficult undertaking. These matters demand the dedication of knowledgeable and experienced advocates– and our civil trial lawyers at Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C. are passionate about being those advocates for clients throughout the region.

    If you would like more information about DC’s Sexual Abuse Statute of Limitations Amendment Act and how it may impact your potential claim, or if you wish to discuss your rights and options for starting your legal journey, our team is here to help. Contact us online, or call (202) 644-8303.

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  • Merriam-Webster Chooses "Justice" as 2018 Word of the Year

    By: Allan M. Siegel

    On our blog, we talk frequently about justice. From describing our own work fighting for the injured and the wronged as they seek just and fair resolutions of their claims to discussions about important news, events, and legal decisions that impact our communities and fellow citizens, justice is a central and consistent theme in many of our posts.

    While it’s true we are lawyers who’ve dedicated careers to helping clients navigate the complex system required for the administration of justice, “justice” isn’t just a word used by attorneys, politicians, or reporters looking for catchy headlines – it’s an idea that’s served as a foundational principle of our nation, and a concept which has a central place in our society’s collective consciousness. Merriam-Webster’s selection of “justice” as its 2018 Word of the Year proves just that.

    Why Justice Prevailed

    Merriam-Webster, one of the oldest and most trusted dictionary publishers in America, began collecting data on words most frequently consulted by people when it first went online in 1996. Over the years, it has bestowed its annual Word of the Year distinction upon a single term. Following “feminism” as the 2017 word of the year, “justice” rose to the top of the list in 2018.

    Here are a few reasons why justice prevailed:

    • Increase in searches – In 2018, searches for the word “justice” on Merriam-Webster’s site increased by nearly 75% over the previous year.
    • Consistency as a top term – The number of users looking up “justice” spiked following major headlines and news stories featuring its use. However, unlike other similar spikes in online dictionary trends, such as the sudden increase in searches for “maverick” following the death of former Senator John McCain, searches for justice were more continuous throughout the year, and consistently among the top searched words of the day on any given day.
    • A year of events – Increases in look-ups of “justice” weren’t driven by any single event, but rather an entire year of events where justice was a central theme. This includes stories focusing on criminal justice (notably criminal justice reform), social and racial justice, economic justice, the Department of Justice, the use of the word as a title for a judge, and obstruction of justice, infamously linked to the Mueller investigation into Russian election meddling.

    Looking at data as simple as the number of times people look up the definition of a word speaks to what’s become a focus for our society, and shows our desire to question and know exactly what we mean when we use the term. Whether it’s enforcing justice as a rule of law, emphasizing individual rights, or an aspiration that justice and fairness will be had, an increased curiosity in justice may very well shape the year to come, and potentially our future for many more to come.

    What Justice Means

    By all appearances, justice is a relatively straightforward and seemingly simple word. According to Merriam-Webster’s top definitions of the term, justice is defined as:

    • The administration or maintenance of what is just, particularly by an impartial adjustment of conflict or by assigning warranted relief / reward or punishment; i.e. social justice, meeting out justice.
    • A judge; i.e. Supreme Court Justice.
    • The administration of law, especially in regard to determining or establishing rights in accordance to rules of law or equity; i.e. a system of justice.
    • The quality of being just, impartial, or fair; i.e. the justice of a decision or a cause.

    Whatever the reason, context, or meaning, one thing is clear: justice was on many people’s minds in 2018. As both a term describing essential elements of our legal system, and a concept upon which we define just, fair, and “right,” the word justice is term that packs a lot of meaning and significance. Though the way justice looks and feels may change throughout time and applied differently by the evolving views of our society, its premise is one that is generally consistent – it’s still major driving force behind how we collectively understand the world around us, what we deem unjust, and how we go about righting wrongs.

    CSCS: Helping Victims in Their Fight for Justice

    As civil trial attorneys, our legal team at Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C. is driven by justice, and knows the concept it represents and the system our country created to dole it out are powerful tools for righting wrongs, inequity, and injustices.

    We’ve discussed this idea in several of our blogs, including:

    Backed by decades of collective experience, our legal team is passionate about helping clients who have suffered harm and losses at the hands of others as they seek justice through personal injury claims and other civil lawsuits. Though justice is a critical component of our country, the system victims must navigate to secure it can be complex and filled with many challenges – including those created by corporations, insurance companies, and other high-powered special interest groups that succeed when their injustices persist and go unaddressed.

    Since the founding of our firm over four decades ago to this very day, our team is committed to helping clients find the solid footing, level playing field, and knowledgeable and aggressive representation they need in their fight for justice. Over the years, we’ve proven our ability to do just that, and have recovered over half a billion dollars in compensation for clients.

    If you have a potential personal injury case you wish to discuss, contact our team for a free consultation. Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C. serves residents throughout Washington, DC, Virginia, and Maryland.

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  • Unprovoked Attacks in DC Provide Reminder of Need to Ensure Your Safety, Understand Your Rights

    By Dan Hausman

    A major stabbing occurred on 14th and U Street around noon on Saturday, the 5th. This stabbing occurred a few blocks from the deadly unprovoked stabbing of a runner in Logan Circle that made national headlines last September and a few blocks from the hammer attack in October.

    I returned to the D.C. area after living in Chicago for six years and moved into the Logan Circle neighborhood in September. When I last lived in the D.C. area about ten years ago I would have never have thought to have made the Logan Circle area my home. However, the neighborhood has undergone great change since I left and attracted me as a neighborhood that is vibrant, flourishing, and safe.

    These attacks show that any preconceived notions one has about a location’s safety need to be reimagined. No matter where you are, you must be fully aware of your surroundings to do your best to prevent tragedy. While I won’t engage in a discussion about our society’s failures to adequately address mental health issues for many of the nation’s most vulnerable here, I will offer some tips to best protect yourself from catastrophe:

    • Travel in a group or with someone else
    • Let someone else know where you are going, how long it will take, and when you will check back in
    • For runners, always dress to be seen —headlamps, reflective vests, or lights on your shoes.
    • Fully charge your cellphone. This can help you or a fellow citizen.
    • Carry a whistle, key chains, or alarm, that trigger noise and light to frighten an attacker. Remember, Weapons could be turned against you. Think very carefully before making something like pepper spray part of your plan.
    • Vary routes and be cognizant of patterns. Potential attackers may choose targets based on familiarity.
    • Pay attention to your surroundings. Do not be engaged in your cellphone when walking around. Take one of your ear pieces out when listening to music or talking on the phone so you can hear what is going on around you.

    I really hope you take the practical advice above to heart. As an attorney, I also want to discuss some of the legal aspects of an attack for those that are seeking compensation. Firstly, the attacker themselves can be held liable in the civil judicial system and could be ordered by a court to pay money to make up for the damages they are responsible for. However, the attackers are often “judgment proof,” meaning that they do not have assets that make it worthwhile to bring a lawsuit against them.

    The inquiry of whether victims of an attack can receive compensation does not end after only looking at the attacker. The inquiry becomes much more nuanced when the question is whether actors including the police, health care providers, and premises owners are liable for damages to a victim. While these groups are generally not liable for the criminal acts of others because the law considers them as having no legal duty to warn or protect the victims, the actors can have engaged in certain activities where they have created a relationship with the victim or took steps to make the victim safe to create a situation where the duty to warn or protect the victim attaches.

    Unprovoked attacks are not the only type of attack that can be the basis of a potential case. Other forms of attack such as a dog bite, a fight at a bar or nightclub with another patron or a bouncer, or a fight during a sporting event can all potentially be compensable. For an in-depth discussion about any type of violent attack you can contact the attorneys at Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C. If you potentially have a case, or just have some question, we are always happy to talk to you about your options. Please call (202) 644-8303 or contact us online for a FREE consultation.

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