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PA & WV Accidental Death Lawyer Blog

This blog focuses on the law in Pennsylvania and West Virginia (and other practical issues that arise) when a family member or friend is unfortunately lost due to an accidental death.

  • Bicyclist Death in Pittsburgh

    Earlier this week, a bicyclist, Dennis Flanagan, from McKees Rocks was killed after an SUV struck him, while on his bicycle, on West Carson Street, near the Station Square bus station.

    According to an article in the Tribune Review written by Michael Walton, Flanagan began riding his bicycle daily to improve his health following a diagnosis of high blood pressure.

    Over the past several years, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and the City of Pittsburgh have worked together to install numerous bike lanes throughout Pittsburgh.  West Carson Street, which runs through the South Side neighborhood of Pittsburgh, and is a busy road, however, does not have a separate bike path.

    BikePGH, which is an advocacy group that focuses on making Pittsburgh’s streets and communities safe and accessible for people to bike and walk, is calling for changes to West Carson Street, including, according to WPXI News, the addition of a bike lane.

    Our law firm, Goldsmith & Ogrodowski, LLC, brings lawsuits for wrongful death and survival in Pennsylvania and West Virginia.  This includes lawsuits involving pedestrian and bicyclist injuries and deaths, oil and gas injuries and deaths; construction injuries and deaths; injuries and deaths from a failure of fall protection; injuries and deaths on towboats and the rivers, such as the Allegheny River, Ohio River, Monongahela River, and Kanawha River; Jones Act injuries and deaths; FELA injuries and deaths, and other transportation injuries and deaths on the roadways from tractor-trailers and dump trucks.  If you have questions about the above, or your or your family’s legal rights regarding an accidental or wrongful death or a survival action, contact us for a free consultation at 877-404-6529, 412-281-4340, or info@golawllc.com.  Our website is www.golawllc.com.

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  • Truck Driving – A Dangerous Job

    Did you know that one out of every six worker in the United States that is killed on the job is a truck driver?  Probably not.  Back in April 2016, I wrote about the “Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries Summary, 2014,” which was conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.  The Census tracks work-related deaths.  Recently, the U.S. Department of Labor Blog in a posting titled Truck Driver Job-Related Injuries in Overdrive discussed how the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics data reveal of the danger of being a truck driver.

    In the blog post, Sean Smith and Patrick Harris mentioned the foregoing statistics and noted that:

    • “One out of every six American workers killed on the job is a tractor-trailer driver.”
    • “In 2014 alone, 761 tractor-trailer truck drivers were killed while working, which also marks the fifth year in a row that the number of truck driver fatalities has increased.”
    • “The vast majority of these deaths, 78 percent, were caused by transportation incidents.”

    See Truck Driver Job-Related Injuries in Overdrive .

    The above stats are sobering and are a good reminder as to the danger encountered on the roadways.

    Our law firm, Goldsmith & Ogrodowski, LLC, brings lawsuits for wrongful death and survival in Pennsylvania and West Virginia.  This includes lawsuits involving oil and gas injuries and deaths; construction injuries and deaths; injuries and deaths from a failure of fall protection; injuries and deaths on towboats and the rivers, such as the Allegheny River, Ohio River, Monongahela River, and Kanawha River; Jones Act injuries and deaths; FELA injuries and deaths, and other transportation injuries and deaths on the roadways from tractor-trailers and dump trucks.  If you have questions about the above, or your or your family’s legal rights regarding an accidental or wrongful death or a survival action, contact us for a free consultation at 877-404-6529, 412-281-4340, or info@golawllc.com.  Our website is www.golawllc.com.

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  • United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania Finds Arbitration Clause in Nursing Facility Operator’s Admission Agreement Does Not Waive Right to Jury Trial as to Wrongful Death and Survival Claims

    Recently, and as previously discussed in this blog, Pennsylvania state courts have found that an arbitration provision in an admission agreement of a nursing home operator or skilled nursing facility does not waive the right to a jury trial as to a wrongful death claim or survival claim.

    Differentiating from recent decisions by other federal district courts in Pennsylvania permitting the wrongful death claim and survival claim to be severed when the nursing home or skilled nursing facility contract contained an arbitration agreement, the Honorable Arthur J. Schwab of the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania held in Grkman v. 890 Weatherwood Lane Operating Company, LLC, 2016 WL 3057656 (May 31, 2016), that wrongful death and survival claims against a nursing facility operator would proceed to a jury trial, despite the plaintiff signing, on behalf of his father, an admission agreement with an arbitration clause.

    In Grkman, the plaintiff’s father was admitted to the defendant’s skilled nursing facility with an ulcer.  Over several months, the ulcer worsened, which allegedly caused additional health complications leading to the death of the plaintiff’s father.  So that his father could be admitted to the skilled nursing facility, plaintiff, as Power of Attorney, signed an Admission Agreement containing a clause requiring binding arbitration for any dispute or controversy related to plaintiff’s father’s care at the facility.

    Following his father’s death, Plaintiff filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania alleging claims for wrongful death and survival.  Pursuant to the terms of the arbitration clause in the Admission Agreement, the defendant skilled nursing facility filed a motion to dismiss the claims.

    In denying the motion to dismiss, Judge Schwab found that by applying general agency principles, the plaintiff, as the Power of Attorney, had the right to sign the agreement.  By signing the agreement on behalf of his father, plaintiff waived his deceased father’s right to a jury trial as to the survival claim.  Judge Schwab also found, however, the plaintiff did not waive his right to file a wrongful death action, which claim belongs to plaintiff and not his deceased father.

    Following the above findings, Judge Schwab noted the Admission Agreement contained a choice of law provision stating that the agreement shall be interpreted according to the laws of Pennsylvania.  Since Pennsylvania substantive law precludes severance of the wrongful death claim and survival claim, Judge Schwab concluded that both claims must be tried before a jury.

    Our law firm, Goldsmith & Ogrodowski, LLC, brings lawsuits for wrongful death and survival in Pennsylvania and West Virginia.  If you have questions about the above, or your or your family’s legal rights regarding an accidental or wrongful death or a survival action, contact us for a free consultation at 877-404-6529, 412-281-4340, or info@golawllc.com.  Our website is www.golawllc.com.

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  • 2015 Pennsylvania Heavy Truck (Tractor-Trailer) Crash Facts and Statistics

    While driving on the Pennsylvania Turnpike a couple of weeks ago, I twice encountered the remnants of large tires from tractor-trailers in the middle of the highway.  With quick maneuvering, I was lucky to avoid the tires.  The damaged tires easily could have caused an accident and were a reminder of the potential dangers drivers face on state roads and highways.  This made me think about and then inquire into crash statistics for tractor-trailers in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

    Interestingly, in April 2016, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (“PennDOT”) released its  2015 Pennsylvania Crash Facts and Statistics booklet .  The booklet provides information involving reported crashes involving cars, tractor trailers, buses, motorcycles, etc. that occurred in Pennsylvania in 2015 on the state’s approximately 120,000 miles of roads and highways.  The information was collected from police crash reports from the Pennsylvania State Police and approximately 1,300 local municipal police departments.

    In 2015, there were 127,127 reported traffic crashes resulting in 1,200 deaths and 80,004 injured people in Pennsylvania, which was the eleventh lowest total for crashes since 1950.

    Notably, out of the 127,127 crashes in Pennsylvania, 6,916 involved heavy trucks.  This was the highest total since 2011.  The booklet defines heavy trucks as including tractor-trailers, single unit trucks, such as coal trucks, and motor homes.  Basically, a heavy truck is one that is designed for carrying a heavy load of property on or in the vehicle.  There were 130 fatal crashes involving heavy trucks, which resulted in 149 deaths.

    As you can tell, despite an attempt by automotive manufacturers to improve safety, there are still a fair amount of crashes and deaths that occur on roads and highways in Pennsylvania involving heavy trucks, such as tractor-trailers.

    Our law firm, Goldsmith & Ogrodowski, LLC, brings lawsuits for wrongful death and survival in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, which includes actions arising from car, motorcycle, tractor-trailer, etc. crashes and accidents.  If you have questions about the above, or your or your family’s legal rights regarding an accidental or wrongful death or a survival action, contact us for a free consultation at 877-404-6529, 412-281-4340, or info@golawllc.com.  Our website is www.golawllc.com.

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  • Superior Court of Pennsylvania Again Refuses to Enforce Arbitration Agreement as to Wrongful Death and Survival Claims Involving Claims of Nursing Home Negligence

    The Superior Court of Pennsylvania has reaffirmed that an arbitration agreement executed by a decedent’s spouse is not binding on wrongful death beneficiaries.  In Brosius v. HCR Manorcare, LLC, 2016 WL 1625790 (Pa. Super. April 25, 2016), William Brosius died while a resident at a Manor Care facility following his admission to recover from surgery to repair a broken right femur.  The broken femur resulted from a ladder fall.  Brosius’ wife signed an arbitration agreement with Manor Care, which included a requirement that claims of malpractice against Manor Care be submitted to arbitration.

    Brosius’ wife, as executrix of the estate of Brosius, filed a complaint alleging wrongful death and survival claims.  She further alleged that, due to the negligence of Manor Care, Brosius suffered a Stage III sacral ulcer, pneumonia, urinary tract infections, sepsis, C-Diff, dehydration, and malnutrition, which caused Brosius’ death.

    Manor Care filed preliminary objections to the complaint seeking to have the wrongful death and survival claims compelled to arbitration.  This means that rather than have a jury decide whether Manor Care was negligent and, if so, the amount of damages to award on the wrongful death and survival claims, an impartial third-party would be the one to decide negligence and damages.

    The trial court denied the preliminary objection citing the constitutional right of wrongful death beneficiaries to a jury trial and Pennsylvania’s interest in litigating wrongful death and survival claims together.

    The Superior Court of Pennsylvania found the trial court did not err and that its recent decisions (Tuomi v. Extendicare, Inc., 119 A.3d 1030 (Pa. Super. 2015), Pisano v. Extendicare Homes, Inc., 77 A.3d 651 (Pa. Super. 2015), and Taylor v. Extendicare Health Facilities, Inc., 113 A.3d 317 (Pa. Super. 2015), appeal granted, 122 A.3d 1036 (Pa. 2015)) directly controlled the appeal.

    In sum, if you have a loved one that passes away due to the negligence of a nursing home and the nursing home seeks to have claims of negligence arbitrated, you do not need to give in to to the nursing home.  Rather, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania has made clear that the claims can proceed before a jury.

    Our law firm, Goldsmith & Ogrodowski, LLC, brings lawsuits for wrongful death and survival in Pennsylvania and West Virginia.  If you have questions about the above, or your or your family’s legal rights regarding an accidental or wrongful death or a survival action, contact us for a free consultation at 877-404-6529, 412-281-4340, or info@golawllc.com.  Our website is www.golawllc.com.

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