Arthur Elk: Stay safe on your snowmobile this winter

By Arthur Elk

Northeast Ohio was hit hard by snow this week. For many, that means the frustration of longer commutes, dangerous roads and shoveling snow. But for others, the piles of snow mean the opportunity to break out their snowboards or gas up their snowmobiles.

More than 2 million Americans enjoy snowmobiling every winter. It’s a fun, exciting pastime that riders of all ages can enjoy. However, the weight of the vehicle and the high-speed capability of the vehicle can be a dangerous combination, especially for new riders or riders who are impaired by alcohol. Snowmobile accidents result in more than 14,000 injuries and 200 deaths each year in the United States.

A 48-year-old Ashtabula County man died Tuesday evening after he crashed his snowmobile.  Authorities said the snowmobile ran off the right side of the road, striking a ditch and then a tree, where Steven Pawlowski, who troopers said was wearing a helmet at the time of the crash, was ejected from the vehicle. Police said they believe alcohol may have been a factor but the crash is still under investigation.

One of the greatest risk factors for having an accident on a snowmobile, as with every motor vehicle, is drinking alcohol. Drinking alcohol before operating any kind of motorized vehicle is never a smart choice. It slows your reflexes and affects your decision-making process. And when you are traveling at speeds up to 90 mph on a 600-pound snowmobile, every second counts.

For a safe and enjoyable season, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources offers these tips:

  • Always keep your machine in top mechanical condition.
  • Always wear insulated boots and protective clothing including a helmet, gloves and eye protection.
  • Never ride alone.
  • Avoid, when possible, crossing frozen bodies of water.
  • Never operate in a single file when crossing frozen bodies of water.
  • Always be alert to avoid fences and low strung wires.
  • Never operate on a street or highway.
  • Always look for depressions in the snow.
  • Keep headlights and taillights on at all times.
  • When approaching an intersection, come to a complete stop, raise off the seat and look for traffic.
  • Always check the weather conditions before you depart.

So get out there and enjoy the snow while you can, and remember these tips. I hope you all have a safe and fun snowmobiling season.

Stryker reverses course on hip systems, recommends patients get checked

By Arthur Elk

More than six months after recalling two popular modular hip systems, Stryker is telling any patients with the hips in their bodies to visit their doctor and get tested.

In June 2012, the company issued a voluntary recall of its Rejuvenate and ABG II modular hip systems. The company made the move after patients began experiencing pain and swelling around the hip caused by metal corrosion and tissue destruction.

At the time, the company said that only patients who were experiencing symptoms needed to be checked by their doctors.

After many years of practicing law as a personal injury attorney, I have seen too many cases where companies have issued such statements and patients who were not experiencing symptoms at the time have gone on to experience serious, often fatal, complications. So I couldn’t believe when Stryker gave such questionable advice.

Now, the company has wisely reversed course and is urging all patients who have these recalled devices in their body to undergo blood testing. If the blood work up reveals elevated metals and tissue reaction, the company says the doctor should consider removing the device and replacing it with a non-modular device.

According to the company’s website, Stryker has now hired a company called Broadspire to administrate the claims process for future incurred medical expenses. We are glad to see the company plans to compensate patients for replacement of faulty hips to prevent continued injury to patients. But why did it take the company so long to give patients the correct advice? How many patients had to suffer unnecessarily because Stryker didn’t recommend all patients be checked at the time of the recall?

If you have one of the recalled devices in your body, please visit your doctor as soon as possible. They will be able to discuss your specific situation and help you decide whether you should remove the device.

At Elk & Elk, we have nearly five decades of experience helping victims of medical device recalls. If you have suffered pain and suffering because of the Stryker Rejuvenate or ABG II systems, please call us today at 1-800-ELK-OHIO or visit our website and find out how we can help you.


Arthur Elk: Energy drinks pose a real health risk

By Arthur Elk

energy-drinksIn the past four or five years, energy drinks have surged in popularity. I have watched as brand names like 5-Hour Energy, Red Bull and Monster have become part of our culture. The supercharged caffeinated drinks are especially popular among teens and young adults.

Unfortunately, the surge in popularity of these products has also seen an increase in emergency room visits associated with energy drinks. A recent survey of the nation’s hospitals was conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The survey found that from 2007 to 2011, the number of emergency room visits involving the beverages more than doubled from about 10,000 to more than 20,000. Most of those cases involved teens or young adults.

The report doesn’t specify which symptoms brought people to emergency rooms. But it calls energy drink consumption a “rising public health problem” that can cause insomnia, nervousness, headache, fast heartbeat and seizures.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is considering requiring these drink to include new health warnings on the labels. In November, the FDA reported that 5-Hour Energy had been linked to 13 deaths and Monster drinks had been tied to five deaths.

I understand that sometimes we all feel a little tired or need a boost of energy. But these energy drinks are a serious health concern, especially for young people, and are not the answer. Consuming such large quantities of caffeine can be very dangerous. New warning labels should be added to these products, but labels can be ignored. More education about the dangers of these products should be done to help prevent any more needless deaths.

If you are the parent of a teen or young adult, please make sure they know the truth about these drinks. Let them know they are not just another fun, safe drink like pop or coffee.

At Elk & Elk, we are very concerned about dangerous products and want everyone to be aware when a new safety issue arises. To find out more about us, visit our website.

New laws tackle social media password issue

By Arthur Elk

Last year, we started hearing about a new privacy concern for employees and even job seekers. News stories were popping up everywhere about bosses and interviewers asking for social media passwords so they could see what people were posting online.

At that time, it was obvious that existing laws in most states didn’t cover this issue. Unfortunately, it always takes time for the law to catch up with technology, and this was another case of that happening.

In 2013, five states have new laws going into effect that will make it illegal for employers to demand social networking passwords or non-public online account information from their employees or job applicants.

California and Illinois had laws go into effect on Jan. 1 and Maryland, New Jersey and Delaware have new laws taking effect later this year. Michigan enacted a similar ban last year, making a total of six states with a ban.

Other states are also considering similar Facebook password laws that will protect an employee’s or potential employee’s personal information.

I am glad to see state legislatures taking action to protect workers’ privacy. No employer should be able to force them to give up their personal, private information.

Tip: Make sure that your social media privacy settings are at the level you want them. If you don’t have them set properly, anyone may be able to see things that you only intended for your family and friends to see. And then no law will help you.

What do you think about these laws? Should employers be able to ask an employee or job applicant for their social media passwords? Please let us know by commenting on this post.

Judge sentences drunk driver to view accident victims

By Arthur Elk

Drunk driving is a tragic problem in our country. Thousands of people lose their lives senselessly each year because of the wrong choices others make to get behind the wheel after drinking.

As a personal injury attorney, I’ve seen the sad consequences of drunk driving too many times. Often, the drunk drivers are repeat offenders. If you’re like me, you’ve heard too many stories on the news about drivers being convicted of drunk driving for the 10th, 15th or even the 20th time.

That’s why I was very interested to hear about the unique sentence a Northeast Ohio judge imposed on a first-time drunk driving offender earlier this week.

Painesville Municipal Court Judge Mike Cicconetti is known for handing down some interesting sentences.  In  2005, Cicconetti sentenced 26-year-old Michelle Murray to spend a night out in the cold for abandoning 33 kittens in the dead of winter, nine of which died.

In Cicconetti’s court on Tuesday, first time OVI offender Jonathan Tarase, 27, was sentenced to 65 days in jail, with 60 of the days suspended, probation for six months, a $600 fine and no driving privileges for 15 days. But there was another twist. Tarase will have to view the bodies of two car accident victims at a local hospital ER or coroner’s office. Cicconetti wants to make sure that Tarase learns the lesson that drunken driving kills.

I think it’s great to see a judge thinking of creative new ways to fight the deadly problem of drunk driving. If just this one offender can learn a lesson and never drive drunk again, the experiment will be a success. Hopefully other judges will continue to come up with other new ways to try to keep drunk drivers off the road.

Please stay safe. Don’t drink and drive.