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Montana Personal Injury Law Blog

Helena teen killed in rollover accident

Those who are just learning to drive on Bozeman's roads may need time to build up their skills to the point of being considered truly competent behind the wheel. Until then, one might expect their lack of experience (and in some cases, perhaps even a certain degree of recklessness) to make put them at a greater risk of causing or being involved in accidents. 

Such recklessness and inexperience appears to have played a role in the tragic death of a Helena teen. The 16-year-old was killed when his vehicle rolled several times after having lost control while making a turn. It is believed that excessive speeds did play a role in the teen losing control of the vehicle. There were two passengers in the vehicle at time of the accident, both of which survived with what are reported to be non-life-threatening injuries. 

Detailing the duty to render aid in Montana

Certainly no one in Bozeman wants to be involved in a car accident. Perhaps even more than the fear of injury or sustaining damage to their vehicles, people want to avoid accidents simply because they do not want to have to deal with the consequences that come with them. It may be this desire more than anything else that prompts people to leave the scene of an automobile collision before the authorities can arrive. Indeed, according to information shared by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, as many as 11 percent of accidents reported to the law enforcement involve at least one driver who flees the scene. 

It may be well-known that one is expected to remain at the scene of any car accident that he or she is involved in (regardless of whether or not he or she caused it), but why? The law recognizes that people in an accident have a duty to render aid (if it is needed). In Section 61-7-105 of Montana's Annotated Code, it says that anyone that has been involved in a collision is required to stay and assist any person(s) who may have been injured. Such assistance includes transporting (or arranging for the transport of) anyone needing immediate medical attention to the nearest healthcare facility. In fact, the only scenario in which one is legally allowed to leave the scene before law enforcement officials arrive is to fulfill such an obligation. 

Are product expiration dates required by law?

When you think of expiration dates on products, you most likely associate them with foods and beverages. You might not think twice about using a battery that has passed its expiration date, but drinking from a carton of month-old milk is another matter. The main reason why you avoid foods whose dates say that they have expired is to avoid them making you sick. Yet does product dating actually describe when foods go bad, and is it required by law

The answer may surprise you. According to information shared by the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service, the only item that is required by federal law to have product dating is infant formula. For all other products (including foods and beverages), such information is voluntary. Manufacturers choose to include product dating, however, to boost consumer confidence in their products. If one does choose to include dating, it must be truthful and in compliance with FSIS regulations. 

Explaining the idea of assumption of risk

Bozeman and other areas in Montana have plenty to offer in terms of excitement and diversion. You can enjoy boating in any of state's many lakes, hunting in its forests, or hiking through its back country. Yet as the past experiences of many of the clients that we at Cok Kinzler have worked with demonstrate, these activities bring with them an inherent level of risk. Your first assumption may be those supervising or sponsoring them assume the risks that you and other participants may face. However, those same parties may just as easily argue that you and others understood the dangers an activity posed going in. 

The legal doctrine of assumption of risk states that a person is relieved of any obligation of due care to others in advance of undertaking an inherently dangerous activity. Many defendants in actions such as wrongful death have used this as an affirmative defense, claiming that people freely and knowingly assumed the risks associated with it. Assumption of risk may be expressed (such as with the signing of a liability waiver) or implied (yours and/or others participation implies assuming the risk). 

Connecting heuristics to diagnostic errors

The doctors staffing the hospitals and clinics throughout Bozeman put a great deal of time and effort into their education and training. The expectation that comes from that is that they will be able to recognize the appropriate clinical indicators when diagnosing and subsequently treating patients. Diagnostic errors, however, remain a huge problem in healthcare. According to study information shared by the National Patient Safety Foundation, as many as 80,000 people per year may die due to diagnostic errors. This alarmingly high incidence rate may cause many to question how, with all of the technology at their disposal, are doctors able to assign a wrong diagnosis. 

Protocols exist in nearly every profession, with healthcare being no exception. Clinicians refer to them specifically as heuristics. Such protocols often define a patient's course of care. While heuristics may be useful in helping to guide a doctor in providing care, they also present the potential for danger in that clinicians may rely too heavily on them. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality lists four types of heuristics that have been identified as contributing to diagnostic errors: 

  • Availability: Diagnoses that are biased based on a clinician's experience with past cases
  • Anchoring: Diagnoses that are too heavily influenced by an initial diagnostic impression
  • Framing: Diagnoses that are biased due to collateral information and external cues
  • Blind: Diagnoses that are based largely off of expert opinion

Rehabbing a traumatic brain injury

For most of the clients that we here Cok Kinzler PLLP assist whose lives have been affected by a traumatic brain injury, their injuries (or those of their loved ones) are more mild in nature. The good news is that if you or a family member suffer such an injury, there is the potential for recovery (to a certain extent). The bad news is that you still could be facing enormous rehabilitation costs.

Even cases of mild TBI can result in cognitive deficits that need to be overcome through treatment. The Brain Injury Association of America identifies three types of such rehabilitative treatment: 

  • Acute rehabilitation: This is the treatment delivered in the immediate wake of the injury. It typically refers to services performed in a hospital inpatient or emergency setting, where doctors will assess the extent of yours or your loved one's injury and, if necessary, begin working towards resuming the activities od daily living. 
  • Postacute rehabilitation: This type of rehabilitation is a more intensive form of therapy designed to be delivered once you or your loved one have completed the acute stage. Its purpose is to help supplement the body's natural healing processes and to teach how to compensate for any deficits a TBI has caused. It can be delivered in a rehabilitation center or in your own home. 
  • Subacute rehabilitation: Subacute care is available if you or your family member are progressing but are not yet ready for intensive therapy.

What are the consequences of distracted driving?

Each day, drivers become distracted while they are in control of a vehicle for various reasons. Often, cell phones are the reason why a driver becomes distracted, whether they are responding to a text message, reading an email or talking to someone. However, there are many other types of behavior that can result in distracted driving, which has serious consequences for people across the state of Montana.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that 3,477 lives were claimed by distracted driving throughout 2015. In addition to the loss of life, these accidents also left 391,000 people with injuries. On top of cell phones, drivers can be distracted by other people riding in the vehicle, the radio, the food they are trying to eat or by their attempt to retrieve something from the floor. Moreover, there are other consequences associated with distracted driving, such as property damage and even fines.

Defining the different types of product defects

Like all consumers in Bozeman, you buy a product believing that it will do that which it is intended to do. Sometimes you might have to suffer through the annoyance of it not working as well as you would like, yet your dissatisfication typically is not enough to support a liability claim against the manufacturer. However, as many of the clients that we here at Cok Kinzler PLLP have worked with have discovered, products can often go beyond annoying you to even causing harm to you and/or your loved ones. In order to assign liability, the harm caused in your case often has to be traced back to a defect with the product. 

According to the National Paralegal College, the U.S. legal system recognizes three types of defects: 

  • Manufacturing defects
  • Design defects
  • Defects due to a lack of warning

Oil and gas extraction equipment accidents

Oil and gas drilling is an important part of Montana's economy. Working in the industry can pose unique health and safety hazards. At Cok Kinzler, PLLP, we understand and share the concerns of oil and gas workers.

As explained by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the oil and gas extraction work is classified as part of the mining industry. It shares some of the common hazards of any profession where resources are removed from the earth.

Rollover crash near Bonner claims 2 lives

To have to suffer through the loss of a loved one in a car accident in Bozeman may be unbearable. What might make such an ordeal even more so is if it is later learned that the negligent or reckless actions of another might have contributed to such a tragedy. Often, people assign the blame for car accidents to either other motorists one the road or, in the case of single car crashes, the actions of the drivers themselves. Yet what about instances where the unexplained acts of a passenger contributed to a collision?

Such appears to have been the contributing cause of a rollover that occurred near Bonner. Reports state that a passenger grabbed the wheel of a Jeep Wrangler traveling west on Interstate 90, causing it to leave the road and roll into the median. Officials do not believe that excessive speed was a factor, yet they have not ruled out the possibility that alcohol may have been involved. The passenger’s reason for grabbing the steering wheel has yet to be explained. A man and a woman who were not wearing seatbelts were ejected from the vehicle during the accident. Both died at the scene. Seven others were transported to local medical facilities to be treated for injuries.

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Cok Kinzler PLLP
35 North Bozeman Avenue
Bozeman, MT 59715

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