The Hidden Hazards of Holiday Shopping

Shopping is a necessary part of the holiday season, and staying safe while shopping is key to its enjoyment.

We are always reminded of the do’s and don’ts of shopping safety: park in a well-lit area, don’t walk to your car alone, have keys ready, know your surroundings, don’t let electronics distract you, carry only small amounts of cash, and avoid holding too many bags or carrying a large purse, but there are other shopping hazards lurking about that we don’t think of. Among them are:

Obstructions: Overcrowded merchandise in the aisles can lead to trips or falls.

Overhead boxes: Warehouses store large, heavy boxes on high shelves. These boxes have been known to fall, causing fatalities.  Unfortunately, stores don’t warn you to look out for falling items. Instead, it is up to you to always be aware of precariously perched boxes overhead.

Forklift Operators: Stay clear of any areas where a forklift is operating, as well as the aisles on either side of a moving forklift.  Operators have been known to topple boxes from the opposite side of a shelf, causing boxes to fall and crush unsuspecting shoppers.

Furniture: Unsecured bookcases, T.V. consoles, lumber and other heavy items can fall on children or shoppers. Many stores secure these items with bungee cords or restraining bars, but the restraining devices have been known to break as well; so always use caution and don’t let children stand where the item might fall.

Slips/Falls: Thousands of shoppers every year suffer serious injury due to slip and falls. Be aware of slippery floors, uneven pavement, bad lighting, and loose or icy carpet, all of which can cause injury from an unwanted fall.

Shopping Carts:  Be sure they’re not top heavy, which can cause them to tip over on a child walking beside them. Be aware of any overzealous shoppers or employees who might run into you while not paying attention. And as always, if you put a child in a cart make sure they’re strapped in to prevent them from falling out.

Reaching Overhead for Merchandise:  Always have employees get heavy items off the top shelves. They have special equipment that allows them to reach the items safely. Shoppers have sustained brain and spinal injuries from falling merchandise when trying to reach it above their heads.

Retail stores have a duty to maintain a safe shopping environment for their customers; however, should you find yourself injured while shopping this season take steps to ensure that your injuries are taken care of quickly:

  • If necessary, call 911
  • Talk to witnesses/employees who saw the accident. Make sure to get their name & number
  • Get the manager.  Have him/her complete an incident report and find out who the store’s insurer is. If possible, get a copy of the report.
  • Take pictures of the area, being sure to get a copy of whatever caused the accident (i.e., water on the floor, a fallen object, etc.)
  • Go see your doctor

As always, know your surroundings and stay safe while shopping this holiday season. Let an employee know if you see liquid in the aisle, a heavy item that’s about to fall, or any other safety issue.  The company will appreciate the heads-up, and you will likely have prevented what could have been a serious injury to an unsuspecting customer.

Harmful to Children: Detergent Pods

Children are attracted to anything colorful, especially if it looks like candy.  And those colorful detergent pods we use to clean laundry and dishes can look very appetizing.   In fact, they look just like candy or juice; they’re individually wrapped, are brightly colored, and come packaged in what looks like a candy jar.  It’s no wonder that children want to taste them.

We all know any laundry detergent is harmful if swallowed, but these individually wrapped pods can be especially caustic because of their contents. Unlike regular powder detergent, the single-use pods are filled with highly concentrated detergent, which is then wrapped in a plastic covering that dissolves when exposed to water or saliva.   When swallowed, these pods can cause almost immediate distress, and the effects can be far worse than that of regular detergent.

Symptoms of pod exposure can include vomiting, coughing or choking, a mental status change and respiratory distress.  On several occasions, children have been hospitalized and had to be put on a ventilator or intubated to help them breathe.

Exposure to these pods is on the rise.  According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC), there were 16,738 laundry packet exposures (in children 5 and under) reported to Poison Centers between 2012-2013 combined.  Already, in the first 7 months of 2014, there have been 9,935 reported cases of children 5 and under being exposed to the single-load laundry packets.

Below are some safety tips to follow if you use the more convenient, single-use detergent pods:

  • If you have small children then it’s best to use powder detergent. It’s not as attractive to children and the injuries are usually less severe should a child be exposed to it.
  • If you use Single-use pods then be sure to seal them tightly and store them in a high place, out of reach and sight of children.  It’s best to keep them in a locked cabinet.
  • If you use the pods, be extra vigilant about where you set them down.  Don’t set them down within reach of a child for even a second.  It only takes one second for a child to grab it and bite it, which is all it takes to poison the child, or cause burns to their face or mouth.

Below are tips for what to do if you suspect exposure:

  • If the pod is in a child’s mouth, remove it immediately
  • Gently wipe the child’s mouth
  • Wash the child’s face and hands (to prevent them from spreading it on their face or getting it in their eyes).

Call your Poison Control Center immediately at 1-800-222-1222.

















Myths of Medical Malpractice

I wanted to share a very good article that reveals some truths about medical malpractice in our country.   It might be hoped that articles debunking the common myths about medical malpractice and “tort-reform” legislation would not still be necessary, but false beliefs have a tenacity that is sometimes hard to explain.  Maybe it’s just that people tend to believe untrue things when the belief in those false things serves some other conscious or unconscious purpose.  Nonetheless, belief in fairy tales is no basis for making laws that affect all of us when we visit a hospital or doctor’s office.

This article is important not just because it shows the falsity of these myths, but because of who wrote it and who published it.   A physician and a professor collaborated to write an article entitled Five Myths of Medical Malpractice.  In the article, the authors examine certain false beliefs – including the belief that the civil jury trial system delivers unusually high verdicts, and the belief that physicians move to states with damage caps (caps on the amount of money a person can receive in a malpractice case).  These and a few other common falsehoods are exposed in detail and with plenty of supporting evidence.

It is also revealing that the journal Chest published this article This is a peer-reviewed journal of the American College of Chest Physicians.   My hope is that the physician-readers will study this article with an open mind and begin to at least wonder whether the whole “tort-reform” movement is simply a manufactured “crisis” that may serve insurance companies needs, but does nothing to help physicians and, more importantly, does nothing to make patients safer.

Mistakes that Can Wreck a Personal Injury Case in Georgia

During just a few minutes of watching television last night, I must have seen 10 commercials featuring lawyers talking about getting money for all sorts of personal injury cases – drug defects, auto wrecks, trucking wrecks, and medical negligence.  The commercials make it seem awfully easy to get insurance companies to pay big money for these types of cases.   But I know from experience with my clients that this perception is simply not reality;  insurance companies are sophisticated, and they do not easily pay big money on claims for personal injury.    In fact, we too often see the opposite:  folks make mistakes trying to handle their injury case and the insurance company was using those mistakes against them and refusing to pay them a fair amount.  Or, sometimes, the insurance company denied the claim completely.

Here are some mistakes that can be very costly to a person who has been injured:

  • Missing Statutes of Limitation and Other Deadlines:  Lots of folks seem to know that there are statutes of limitations for personal injury cases in Georgia.  These vary by the specific type of case.  But many people do not know that there are all sorts of other deadlines that may apply to a claim, such as ante litem notice periods for claims against government entities, insurance claim notification periods (including uninsured or underinsured motorist claims), statutes of repose, and other deadlines that must be met.  Sometimes it seems like insurance companies wait to negotiate fairly with folks in the hope that they will miss some important deadline.
  • Talking to the Insurance Company:  Insurance adjusters will usually call the injured person after an accident, and it’s not normally a courtesy call;  instead the call is usually more like an interview or interrogation about the personal injury case and the person’s medical condition, and it may be recorded.   This can cause trouble for an injured person.  For example, sometimes folks will say they are fine before they even see a doctor even though they are in pain.  It can take days or weeks or even longer for some injuries to become symptomatic, but by then the insurance company may have already tape-recorded you saying you were “fine” and they may use that against you.  Keep in mind, though, that you may have a duty to speak with your own insurance company if you are making an uninsured or underinsured motorist claim.
  • Not Preserving Evidence:  Even in an age of smart phones with good cameras built in, it amazes me how often people do not take lots of pictures of a wreck scene and the vehicles involved in the wreck.  Some trucking companies even use such things as “Rapid Response Teams” to document the scene of a wreck as soon as possible, sometimes within just a few hours of the wreck.  Evidence of this sort is very important because you will probably need to show the insurance company the damage done to your vehicle as well as the configuration of the roadway to show that their insured was negligent.   You will also want to get the names of any witnesses and, if possible, locate any video cameras that may have captured any images of the wreck or the vehicles before the wreck.

These are some of the more common issues folks encounter after suffering a personal injury and having an awareness of these potential pitfalls will help you take the right steps to avoid them.