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Helmet Safety in Design Improvements Pt. 1

by James McCormick As an avid off-road motorcyclist and skier I’m no stranger to sports requiring helmets. As a huge advocate of helmet use, I make it a habit. In the past I have generally ascribed to the common wisdom that when purchasing a helmet, the more expensive (sometimes much more expensive), the safer the helmet. I didn’t give the helmet design much thought other than to make sure it had passed one or more … Continue reading

Snowmobile accidents

Snowmobile accidents are rampant this time of year. Just recently a British woman died after colliding with a tree, a Michigan man’s death is being investigated after being found pinned beneath a snowmobile following an accident, and a 9 year-old boy was fatally injured after being thrown from a snowmobile in Colorado. This winter sport has gained popularity in recent years, as more than 2 million people of all ages participate across the country. Yet … Continue reading

Public safety, mental health and Foss High School

Schools are responsible for the safety of our children.  When a child is injured or killed on school premises, the school district may be held liable.  This is the case also in school shootings.  However, there are limits.  The primary limit is that the person or family suing School safetythe school district must show that the school had some kind of notice that the shooter was likely to commit a violent act with a firearm.  With no pre-warning that such might happen, the school district is not liable.  A recent case against the Tacoma School District highlights that.  Read the Tacoma News Tribune article here.

The details of the case are sad.  A 17 year old high school student was gunned down by a fellow Foss High School student who suffered from schizophrenia.  The family of the boy who was killed filed a civil suit, claiming damages against the school district for its failure to protect their son.  Attorneys for the family of the deceased contended that the District had notice the boy was dangerous by virtue of his recognized affliction.  In dismissing the case, the Pierce County Superior Court said that the law does not recognize a diagnosis of schizophrenia as “notice” to the school that this student was particularly dangerous and required extra monitoring and supervision around others.  The Court of Appeals agreed.  That means the court decided State law does not support the contention that the school district owed any duty to protect other students at the school from potential danger posed by this mentally ill student.

Studies show that individuals affected by schizophrenia are not typically violent toward others.  Instead, they tend to be reclusive and are usually more harmful to themselves. Tragically, schizophrenics are far more likely than others to commit suicide.  You can read more about the disorder at the National Institute of Mental Health’s website.  For many families, this is a very real and devastating condition.  For our society, it’s something we could do better to learn about and understand.

What does this mean for you and me?  Cases against government entities seem to evoke quite a bit of passionate debate as to their merits from both sides of the issue.  Many people feel that government simply has no obligation to protect citizens from known dangers – that we are all charged with “personal responsibility” rising to the level of keeping ourselves safe regardless of our ability to know of a danger.  Of course, the law does not support that idea.  In fact, many laws on the books are there because the traffic ticketgovernment has at one time or another attempted to evade responsibility to carry out its functions – policies it writes itself, often – such as maintaining streets in safe order, putting noncompliant offenders back in jail or enforcing DUI restrictions.

The law always requires that an entity have “notice,” meaning there was ample opportunity for the responsible party to learn of the risk.  One simply cannot hold another liable for injuries or harm when the party had no knowledge of the risk or dangerous condition.  In this case, the court’s ruling means that knowledge of mental instability on the part of school districts is not “notice” of a dangerous propensity.  It means that going forward, knowing about a person’s mental instability may not be enough to merit having to protect others from them.

Traffic violations that impact your insurance

When it comes to car insurance rates, we all know that traffic violations will raise premiums. Insurance companies base rates on how big a risk you are to their company. The more violations you get or accidents you cause, the more you’re going to pay. An analysis done by insurance.com found that drivers with a one car policy with one violation on their record paid 18% more than those with no violations. Drivers with two … Continue reading

Spinal Cord Injuries

The attorneys at Messina Bulzomi Christensen know that the diagnosis of a spinal cord injury can be devastating news for a patient and their family. Our law firm’s goals are to assist our clients and their families in every way possible, to consider not only immediate financial costs and lost earning capacity, but also take into account that many spinal cord injuries last a lifetime and future expenses need to be allowed for as well. If … Continue reading