gas-pump-mechanical-expert-witness

Problems at the Pump

Case Synopsis: A customer at a large, self-service gas station stopped to fuel her vehicle. Upon arrival at the station, she pulled up to a pump and parked so that the gas tank filler was on the side of her vehicle opposite the fuel pump. She was able to extend the hose across her vehicle to fuel it. After removing the fuel nozzle from the vehicle, the customer claimed the hose suddenly retracted with great force, pulling her over and causing her to fall on the concrete resulting in injuries to her head, right shoulder and right hip. Following the incident, the customer was able to drive herself to an urgent care center.

Expert Analysis: The entire event, from the moment the plaintiff arrived at the gas station until after she departed, was captured on surveillance video. The video clearly showed the woman extend the hose to the far side of her vehicle to fuel it. It then showed her start to return the hose to the pump. As she began to walk behind the vehicle, facing the pump, she stumbled and fell to her right, away from the pump. There was no indication on the video of the hose pulling her toward the pump, as her arms remained down, holding the nozzle when she fell to the side. Continue reading “Problems at the Pump”

Child Safety Month

November is Child Safety & Protection Month

November is Child Safety & Protection Month, a time to look at various ways to keep your children safe. While you take the time to look over the numerous items related to the safety of your children, don’t neglect to take some time to make sure they are traveling safely. Every year, motor vehicle crashes rank high on the list of leading the causes of injury and fatality for children in most age groups.

Here are some general points to consider:

  1. Children over 4’9” are likely riding in a seatbelt. It is important to make sure the seatbelt fits them properly, as they are generally designed for adults. While there is no single criteria indicating when a child is large enough for a seatbelt without a booster or child’s car seat, there are steps you can take to determine when your child can rely solely on the seatbelt.
  2. If your child is smaller than 4’9”, they should be riding in a car seat. There are two important checks that should be made for safety. First, check the expiration date to confirm the child car seat is not past its allowed lifetime, which is typically 6 years. Second, verify the car seat has no open recalls. To do this you will need the car seat manufacturer, model number and date of manufacture. Checking for recalls can be done on either the manufacturer’s website or on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) website. (https://www-odi.nhtsa.dot.gov/recalls/childseat.cfm)
  3. Continue reading “November is Child Safety & Protection Month”

limousine-expert-witness

Occupant Protection in Limousines

Many people think of limousines as just expanded cars or SUVs, however that is not the case. There are numerous changes made to the vehicles, which can make them behave differently from typical passenger vehicles, both on the road and in a crash. One of the most obvious is the configuration of the interior of the vehicle. In most passenger vehicles, occupants are seated facing forward and have lap and shoulder seatbelts to secure them in their seats. Frequently, when re-configured as a limousine, the additional seats added include side and rear facing positions. These pose different challenges for protecting occupants in the event of a crash. In most cases, these added seat positions are only equipped with lap belts, which only provide pelvic restraint, without any restraint for the upper torso. Historically, some limousine builders have done a poor job incorporating lap belts. In investigating limousine crashes, lap belts were found to be improperly anchored, and in some cases, attached to plywood with a wood screw and washer, or installed with very poor geometry. While many of the poor designs have been improved upon, lap belts are still limited in their ability to provide protection to occupants in a crash.

The seating capacity of the limousine presents additional issues. There are numerous concerns created by increasing the number of passengers in the vehicle. One is simply the weight of the occupants. When the seating capacity doubles from 5 or 6 to 10 or 12, so does the weight of passengers. In addition, the curb weight of the vehicle increases due to the added vehicle length. In some cases, the weight of the limousine, with a full passenger load, exceeds the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of the vehicle. This added weight effects the vehicle handling as well as the ability to stop the vehicle. Some limousine builders try to address this by placing a limit on the number of occupants in the vehicle. This is done by both the number of seatbelts in the vehicle as well as labeling the occupant capacity of the limousine. In some cases, this results in portions of a bench or couch type seat, which are not “designated seating positions,” and should not be used when the vehicle is in motion. However, this “extra” seating allows both operators and occupants to comfortably exceed the allowable capacity of the limousine, resulting in a heavier vehicle where some occupants do not have access to a seatbelt. Continue reading “Occupant Protection in Limousines”

car-seat-on-airplane-expert-witness

Car Seats on Airplanes

As someone who both investigates crashes and teaches child passenger safety, I am frequently asked questions about traveling with children on airplanes. For many families, the infrequency of air travel with a child translates to little knowledge of both the regulations and the best practices.

Most airlines do not require a child under 2 years old to have a ticket. This means the child does not have a seat and will have to sit on someone’s lap for the flight. While this is permitted by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), they recommend all children be secured in a child seat or approved harness on all flights. This is largely due to the difficulty of holding a child should the flight encounter turbulence or make a rough landing. Some airlines offer reduced or specially priced fares for young children.

Once you have a ticketed seat for your child, the recommendation is to use a Child Restraint System (CRS) or a FAA approved child harness device to restrain the child to the aircraft seat. Not every CRS can be used on an aircraft. Only those that have passed the inversion test specified in FMVSS 213 and are labeled with the phrase, “This restraint is certified for use in motor vehicles and aircraft”, are acceptable. While this does include most rear-facing and forward-facing child seats with harnesses, regulations do not permit the use of booster seats on aircraft. You should also check the width of your CRS to be sure it is less than 16 inches wide or you could find it is to large to fit in the aircraft seat. In addition to CRS, the FAA has approved one harness device, the CARES (Child Aviation Restraint System), for use on aircraft. Continue reading “Car Seats on Airplanes”

Car Seat Safety Expert Witness

Latest Recommendation for Children in Child Seats

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recently published an updated policy statement regarding the transportation of children in vehicles. AAP now recommends children remain in a rear-facing car safety seat as long as possible, until they reach the highest rear-facing weight or height allowed by their child seat. Prior to this latest change, AAP recommended children should remain rear-facing until age 2. This change has resulted in confusion for parents that can be seen in social media comments and responses. These comments question if rear-facing is safer, the ability to fit a child seat for a larger child in cars, where the larger children will put their legs and when it is OK to turn a child forward facing. AAP’s recommendations are aimed at increasing the safety of children being transported and are supported by the science of occupant protection. Simply stated, we would all be safer if we could ride rear-facing, be in on a plane, train or automobile.

There are a few places where you will see occupants riding facing rearward. Many of the cabin crew seats on aircraft face the rear of the aircraft. Also, many military aircraft have “ditching stations” where the occupants would sit facing the rear of the aircraft, with their back against a bulkhead (wall). These rear-facing seats, like rear-facing child seats, all provide support for head, neck and spine of occupants, as opposed to trying to restrain the occupant’s head solely with their neck and thereby decreases the risk for a neck injury. Continue reading “Latest Recommendation for Children in Child Seats”

School Bus Expert Witness

Improvements to School Bus Transportation Recommended

While school bus transportation is statistically one of the safest means of travel, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has recently released several recommendations to increase the safety of school bus transportation. These recommendations came following the NTSB’s investigations of two, 2016 school bus crashes that involved multiple fatalities. These crashes occurred in Baltimore, Maryland and Chattanooga, Tennessee. The NTSB determined the probable causes of both crashes were driver-related issues and made several recommendations related to driver oversight by medical providers, licensing bodies and employers. In addition, the NTSB also made numerous recommendations for changes to the vehicles.

The NTSB recommended National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) require new buses be equipped with collision avoidance, as well as automatic emergency braking systems. In their analysis of the two, 2016 crashes, the NTSB concluded these systems could have prevented the Baltimore crash and reduced the severity of the Chattanooga crash. They also called on states to require lap-shoulder seatbelts for all passenger seating positions on large school buses. In the Chattanooga crash, their investigation determined the pre-crash motion of the bus threw the children from their seats making the compartmentalization method of protecting bus passengers in a crash ineffective. The NTSB report indicates, “Properly worn lap/shoulder belts provide the highest level of protection for school bus passengers in all crash scenarios, including frontal, side, and rear impacts – and rollovers.”
Continue reading “Improvements to School Bus Transportation Recommended”

Child Seat Expert Witness Hot Car

Car Seat Expert Discusses: Hot Weather Risks to Children in Cars

John R. Yannaccone, PE, Senior Mechanical Engineer Expert ::::

As we approach the spring/summer season, the risk of hyperthermia, also known as heatstroke, returns to threaten young children. Each year, children are left, or trapped in a vehicle, exposing them to elevated temperatures. Tragedies related to children being exposed to high temperatures inside a vehicle have been frequently reported in the news over the last few years, but it is not a new phenomenon.

In fact, since 1998, an average of 37 children each year have died from heatstroke as a result of being inside a hot car. In the first 6 months of 2018, twenty children have died from heatstroke after being left in a vehicle. While the reason children find themselves stranded in a sweltering vehicle vary, over 50 percent of the children, who fell victim, were forgotten by their parent or caregiver. Almost 25 percent became trapped while playing in the passenger compartment or trunk of the car. Nearly one in five children who have died from heatstroke in a vehicle were intentionally left in the vehicle by an adult.

The cause of high temperatures inside the vehicle is well known; the energy from the sun heats the inside of the vehicle, creating a greenhouse effect. This is commonly experienced when we get into a car that has been sitting in the sun all day. Continue reading “Car Seat Expert Discusses: Hot Weather Risks to Children in Cars”

equipment expert

Man v. Machine

Case Synopsis: On the morning of the incident, a machine operator reported that the clamps used to hold a workpiece were not gripping as tight as they normally do. The maintenance worker was alerted to this problem, and he and his helper went to repair equipment. The maintenance worker reported he adjusted the clamping mechanism and asked his helper to press the button to actuate the clamps. The helper moved to the control panel and depressed a button. At that time the two portions of the machine moved together, entrapping and crushing the lower portion of the maintenance worker’s body. The maintenance worker alleged the machine malfunctioned during the repair, resulting in him sustaining serious crush injuries to his lower body. It was further alleged that the equipment lacked the safety system to prevent motion of the machine during maintenance. Continue reading “Man v. Machine”

Mechanical Engineer Case Study

Safety First on the Fire Truck

In this case study, an Equipment Expert was requested to inspect the folding steps on a fire truck to determine if the folding steps were secured properly.

Case Synopsis: A firefighter needed to stow a piece of equipment in an open storage area on the top of a fire engine. As he was climbing the folding steps on the side of the engine, one of the steps shifted causing the firefighter to fall and strike his head on the concrete floor and sustain a serious head injury. Following the incident, one of the steps was found to be partially separated from the side of the vehicle with the top two mounting screws pulled out of their locations.

Expert Analysis: Inspection of the vehicle revealed the steps were mounted to the side of the engine with four bolts that extend through the sheet metal and into the storage compartments. The bolts were fastened to the sheet metal with large flat washers and nuts on the inside of the compartment. During the inspection, several different combinations of mounting hardware were found to be in use attaching the various steps to the engine. These included flat washers with non-locking and locking nuts. In some cases, in addition to the flat washers, there were lock washers also in place. These were used both with locking and non-locking nuts. The specific hardware used to secure the dislodged step could not be identified, as only the bolts were recovered. The nuts or washers used on the two dislodged screws were not found. It was hypothesized that the hardware for the dislodged screws did not incorporate any adequate locking features, and subsequently allowed the nuts to loosen over time and eventually separate from the bolt. When the step was loaded by the weight of the firefighter, it dislodged causing him to lose his footing and fall. Continue reading “Safety First on the Fire Truck”

Chopping Machine Expert Witness

Be Careful Where You Put Your Hands!

Case Synopsis: A worker was monitoring the flow of vegetables into a chopping machine. The machine’s inlet would occasionally clog, requiring the worker to clear out the jammed vegetables. The plant’s procedure to clear the clog was to shut down the chopper machine, thereby stopping the blades, and then use a plastic paddle to clear the clog in the inlet. On the day of the incident, the worker chose not to shut down the machine or use the plastic paddle to clear the jam. While reaching into the inlet, the worker extended their hand into the machine, placing their hand in the path of the rotating blades. The worker sustained amputation of all four fingers and part of their hand and thumb.

The plaintiff alleged the machine was defective because it allowed the worker to be exposed to the sharp, rotating blades. They indicated the machine should have been designed to automatically shut down in the event of a clog to prevent a worker from coming into contact with the blades when they were active. Continue reading “Be Careful Where You Put Your Hands!”