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Bridgeport Personal Injury Law Blog

Connecticut third toughest for drunk driving laws

WalletHub recently concluded a study to determine which state has the strictest drunk driving laws. Connecticut finished third behind Arizona and Alaska in the overall rankings. Connecticut ranked fifth in criminal penalties and eighth in drunk driving prevention.

Driving under the influence is a national scourge. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration reported that DUIs were involved in 31 percent of vehicle fatalities in the United States in 2012. Each year, impaired driving causes an estimated 10,000 fatalities. Drunk driving is also estimated to cost $60 billion each year in this county. Connecticut reported 100 deaths in 2012 and 114 in 2013 that were attributed to drunk driving accidents, according to the NHTSA.

Pedestrian accidents have multiple causes

Pedestrians in Connecticut are virtually unprotected against vehicles but can be harmed by other drivers for many different reasons. Reasons for accidents include a driver's being under the influence of drugs or alcohol, using one or more electronic devices while driving, being distracted by things like eating or changing the radio station, or simply disregarding traffic laws by speeding or ignoring traffic signs.

Pedstrian accidents are not caused only by vehicles per se. For example, the Connecticut Supreme Court recently ruled on an appeal in a wrongful death concerning a pedestrian who was killed by a flying log that slammed into him while a Connecticut state highway crew was cutting a tree down.

Fiat Chrysler cited with record financial penalty for recalls

Negligent or reckless drivers can pose a risk to Connecticut motorists and pedestrians. However, defective vehicles can cause fatal car accidents when parts cause fires or if there is a loss of control.

At a July 2 hearing, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration discussed problems with Fiat Chrysler's implementation of 23 safety recalls for more than 11 million defective vehicles. Following this hearing and the manufacturer's admissions of Motor Vehicle Safety Act provisions, Fiat Chrysler agreed to a $105 million civil penalty. This is the largest penalty ever levied by the NHTSA.

Litigation ongoing 5 years after explosion

Family members can suffer the loss of a loved one in any number of circumstances including a fatal workplace accident. A particularly catastrophic example occurred on Feb. 7, 2010 with the Middletown natural gas explosion at the Kleen Energy power plant. The blast occurring during construction and led to earthquake-like tremors that were felt 10 miles away. Six men were killed.

At the time of the explosion, workers were cleaning debris from pipelines with pressurized natural gas, a gas blow, to make the plant operational. The natural gas located an ignition source and exploded. An attorney claimed that there have been other explosions in Connecticut associated with gas blows. This procedure is now illegal.

Connecticut's breathalyzer law takes effect

Until July 1, Connecticut law afforded a loophole to some drunk driving offenders that allowed them to avoid an ignition interlock device on their vehicles. An IID requires a driver to blow a breath sample into a tube before their car could start. Previously, a IID was required only after a second DUI conviction or when a drunk driver entered a diversion program.

Under the new law, all Connecticut drivers who have their licenses suspended for a DUI must install an IID on their car's ignition. If the breath sample is over .025 percent, the ignition will not operate. Random samples are also required during the operation of the vehicle. The required time for keeping the breathalyzer in the vehicle will depend on whether the offender is over 21-years-old, whether the driver is a repeat offender and whether the motorist refused taking a blood alcohol test.

Inattention to medical test leads to $3 million verdict

Incalculable acts of negligence can lead to a fatality and a wrongful death action in Connecticut. One example recently occurred where a jury in Hartford awarded $3 million to a Torrington man's estate and his widow for medical malpractice because insufficient attention was paid to his test results.

The wrongful death lawsuit alleged that the decedent was 67-years-old at the time of his death in May 2009 and suffered a heart condition, aortic stenosis, which caused the narrowing of his aortic valve. The decedent's general physician, named in the lawsuit but not a defendant, ordered an echocardiogram. Another doctor interpreted these results and found that the aorta stenosis appeared more severe in the ultrasound images than the measurements indicated.

What role does a preexisting condition play in workers' comp?

There are times that an injured worker may have a progressive medical condition unrelated to a workplace injury that is later aggravated by a work injury. Determining whether a worker may be fully compensation for a pre-existing condition and workplace injury requires close scrutiny of the particular facts.

A basic tenet of Connecticut's workers' compensation law is that an employer takes a worker in their physical condition at the time of employment. In other words, the employer is responsible for all of the consequences of a compensable injury even though the injury is more severe because of the employee's existing health problems or physical condition. For example, a worker who died from a heart attack after surgery for a knee injury received at work was entitled to workers' compensation benefits even though he had a pre-existing heart condition.

Uber changes safety policy

A collision is not the only threat to vehicle passenger safety. In Connecticut and elsewhere, passengers and pedestrians can be harmed through reckless or negligent behavior that does not involve a crash.

The ride-hailing company Uber, for example, increased rider safety efforts in March. It addressed accusations from passengers that drivers committed assault, kidnapping, rape and other crimes.

Wrongful death survivors face legal obstacles

The circumstances that give rise to a wrongful death lawsuit can vary widely. Negligence may take lives in surgery, in a drunk driving accident, at an unsafe workplace, in a boating accident, during roadside construction or even on a playground. Unsafe equipment, defective drugs or a driver texting instead of watching the road are among the many causes of death that might lead to legal action.

When a family loses a loved one in an accident, the surviving family members are often left with serious financial challenges, on top of the emotional distress they experience. They may have to pay for medical bills and other costs, and their household is left without their loved one's income. Connecticut law provides that when the death was the result of another person's negligence, surviving family members may seek compensation for these and other damages through a wrongful death lawsuit.

GM may pay record penalty for defect

The U.S. Justice Department has found criminal wrongdoing in General Motors' failure to disclose a vehicle defect related to more than 100 fatalities. GM is negotiating a financial penalty with USDOJ which may set exceed the $1.2 billion paid by Toyota in 2014 for concealing unintended acceleration problems in its cars. Former GM employees are also under investigation and could face criminal charges.

In February 2014, GM began a recall of 2.6 million Chevrolet Cobalts and other small cars with faulty ignitions that could expectantly turn off the engine and disable power steering, power brakes and airbags. This eventually led to a worldwide recall of a more than 30 million vehicles which set a record for GM.

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Law Offices of James L. O'Rourke

Stratford Office
1825 Barnum Avenue, Suite 201
Stratford, CT 06614

Toll Free: 800-658-1245
Phone: 203-864-4427
Fax: 203-377-2770
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221 Nells Rock Road
Shelton, CT 06484

Toll Free: 800-658-1245
Phone: 203-864-4427
Fax: 203-377-2770
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Stamford Office
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Stamford, CT 06903

Toll Free: 800-658-1245
Phone: 203-864-4427
Fax: 203-377-2770
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