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Pittsburgh Wrongful Death Law Blog

Couple on holiday trip killed in Pennsylvania truck accident

Defensive driving skills save many Allegheny County drivers from collisions. Sometimes, no matter what you do, it's impossible to anticipate the actions of other drivers. Operators of smaller vehicles are at a disadvantage when a negligent driver is behind the wheel of a tractor-trailer.

Two 18-wheelers and a car were involved in a recent crash on Interstate 80, not far from Penn State University. An out-of-state couple in a Volvo was headed to the Midwest to spend Thanksgiving with their two adult children. The 64-year-old husband and his 59-year-old wife chose to drive through Pennsylvania for safety reasons.

Prevalence of fatal asbestos diseases in Allegheny County

Before safety regulations were in place in the 1980s, many Pennsylvania workers were exposed regularly to mineral fibers toxic to their health. Symptoms of asbestos injuries commonly remain dormant for 20 to 50 years. Consequently, asbestos attorneys are seeing a significant number of asbestos-related diagnoses today due to workplace harm caused in the past.

The Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit consumer health advocate, asserts the rate of asbestos diseases and deaths has reached epidemic U.S. proportions. EWG studied government statistics, indicating the asbestos death rate was more than 9,900 victims per year. That figure is not projected to decline until sometime around 2025.

The option to settle in Allegheny County mesothelioma cases

Time can be precious for Pittsburgh patients who have been diagnosed with serious health problems. Asbestos-related diseases, like lung cancer and mesothelioma, frequently are discovered when the conditions are well advanced. Treatment of symptoms is possible, but the diseases often progress rapidly with fatal results.

Mesothelioma is a type of cancer affecting the membranous lining of the lungs, abdominal cavity or heart. Asbestos injuries are caused by the inhalation of mineral fibers that become embedded in the lining. Up to 80 percent of all mesothelioma cases have been traced to asbestos exposure in the workplace, according to The Mesothelioma Center.

Driver recklessness cited in Pennsylvania wrongful death case

Traffic law compliance is not the only reason Pittsburgh drivers have a duty to operate motor vehicles safely. Drivers also have a civil obligation to protect others while engaging in a potentially dangerous activity. Criminal courts try drivers for law-breaking, while civil courts determine whether harm originated from a defendant's negligence, recklessness or intentional actions.

A 23-year-old driver was arrested after a fatal accident on Interstate 81 last spring. The man confessed he smoked marijuana but denied using the drug the day of the crash. Authorities located a pot pipe in the driver's Dodge Neon and stated a drug test showed evidence of a significant amount of marijuana in the young man's system.

Maritime laws affect widow's pursuit of asbestos damages

The likelihood of getting hurt at work is greater for an Allegheny County construction worker than someone with a desk job. In the same way, exposure to dangerous asbestos fibers is higher in some occupations than others. Shipyard workers and military veterans are among the workers most vulnerable to asbestos injuries.

The widow of a former U.S. Navy sailor, whose husband's death was linked to asbestos exposure, sought damages from the manufacturer of asbestos products. The case was included in asbestos multidistrict litigation in a Pennsylvania federal court, which ruled maritime law was applicable.

How does strict liability apply to product liability claims?

Allegheny County residents may file civil claims to recover compensation for injuries or deaths caused by product defects. Pennsylvania plaintiffs must convince a jury a manufacturer or other defendant should be held accountable for harm and losses. Proving negligence is a common approach in all forms of liability claims, but it is not the most practical choice for many product liability cases.

Laws reflect the negligence theory in defective product claims but place an immense strain upon plaintiffs. Injured consumers are burdened with the complex, costly and often impossible task of showing a product designer, manufacturer, distributor or retailer acted carelessly. To account for this difficulty, state laws also permit Pittsburgh consumers to pursue legal claims under the theory of strict liability.

Pennsylvania group home wrongful death case settled

Pittsburgh liability claims do not have to be resolved in front of a jury, although attorneys prepare cases with the expectation of a trial. Many personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits are settled out of court. Settlements are negotiable, with no obligations to accept the terms.

A recent settlement was reached in a wrongful death claim against a small Pennsylvania group home, owned by Step by Step Inc., where a severely mentally retarded man died in 2010. The New Hope Group Home resident also suffered from autism and personality and bipolar disorders. Resident care was limited to a maximum of four patients at any given time.

Silica dust dangers for Pennsylvania construction workers

Poor health habits and genetic disposition are blamed for many deaths from heart and lung diseases. Some Allegheny County residents may not know toxic substances in the workplace contribute to a a staggering number of these fatalities. A university study estimated 53,000 deaths from heart, lung and kidney ailments or diseases in 2007 were linked to patients' occupations – almost 10 times more deaths than were caused by sudden work injuries.

Construction workers repeatedly come in contact with silica. The mineral is present in commonly-used materials like concrete, brick and drywall which, when handled, can release dust particles that become trapped in workers' lungs. Over time, inhalation of hazardous silica dust can lead to life-threatening diseases like lung cancer and silicosis.

Comparing nationwide and Pennsylvania workplace deaths

State and federal agencies record and study Allegheny County workers' injuries and deaths, largely to create safety measures to prevent future harm. For example, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration may notice high instances of scaffolding falls, resulting in head injuries among construction workers. As a result, OSHA could beef up guidelines for protective gear or the use of scaffolds.

Employers would have very different interpretations about employee safety, without uniform workplace rules. Despite the government's effort to protect workers, some employers don't take regulations seriously. Safety issues are an afterthought or in some cases, an unwelcome expense that doesn't get attention until a worker is hurt or killed.

Possible contamination prompts Pennsylvania baby wipes recall

Laws protecting Pittsburgh consumers are supposed to reassure the public about product safety. Manufacturers and others in the production chain, like distributors and retailers, may be held liable in civil courts for negligence and defective products. Complaints from consumers and the manufacturers' discovery of flawed products can lead to voluntary recalls.

Internal research conducted by a Clifton County, Pennsylvania, company recently led to a nationwide recall of several brands of baby wipes. Nutek Disposables Inc. in McElhattan received reports some baby wipes were discolored or contained an odor. The manufacturer concluded some products could be contaminated with Burkholderia cepacia.

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