October 30, 2014

Trick-Or-Treaters Follow These Halloween Safety Tips

Wearing a costume and walking the streets in the dark can be dangerous for anyone but especially for young trick-or-treaters. On Halloween, kids are four times more likely to be hit by a car than on any other day of the year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Department of Transportation data indicate that 133 children were struck and killed while walking on Halloween from 1990 to 2012. Ensure your kids have a fun and safe time on the holiday with these Halloween safety tips from the CDC.


Additional Halloween Safety Tips

• If trick-or-treaters are under the age of 12, an adult should supervise them.

• Choose a familiar route for kids to follow while trick-or-treating.

• Masks can obstruct children’s vision, so have them wear face paint instead.

• Make kids more noticeable to drivers by decorating their costumes with reflective tape and having them carry flashlights or glow sticks.

• Use crosswalks and traffic signals and look left, right, and left again before entering the street.

While children are especially at risk of a traffic accident, Halloween is a dangerous day for everyone. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that 54 people were killed on Halloween night in 2012, and nearly fifty percent of those fatalities involved a collision with an impaired driver. Pedestrians of all ages accounted for more than 28 percent of these deaths.

Everyone at Allen, Flatt, Ballidis, and Leslie would like to wish you all a happy and safe Halloween.

How are you staying safe this Halloween? Share your safety tips with us on Facebook.

Additional articles on health and public safety are available free of charge through our office. To request one, please call 888-752-7474 or contact us online.

October 15, 2014

Two More Reasons Not to Use Uber

We’ve been writing a lot about Uber lately—and not good things. First we told you about drivers attacking and attempting to sexually assault passengers in San Francisco and Los Angeles; and then we shared that authorities in both of these cities were targeting Uber, Lyft, and other ride-sharing companies for misleading customers about how thoroughly they were conducting criminal background and driving record checks on their drivers. Now there are two more reasons not to use Uber: its drivers are still sketchy and so is its surge-pricing strategy.

Uber Driver Reportedly Kidnapped Passenger

SFGate reported today that a woman requested an Uber car to drive her home from a party but was instead taken almost 20 miles out of her way to a dark, empty parking lot. It was the middle of the night, and, when she tried to exit the vehicle, the driver locked the doors. He finally relented and took her home after she began screaming and causing a commotion. When the woman reported the terrifying incident to Uber, the ride-sharing company sent her an email apologizing for the ‘inefficient route.’ Uber responded that its “driver called 911 to ask for assistance with an intoxicated rider who requested an extended trip,” that night. Despite this contradictory information, the company has refunded the woman for the ride.

Better Business Bureau Gave Uber an F Rating

After receiving more than 100 complaints about Uber’s surge-pricing strategy and other issues, the Better Business Bureau gave the company an F rating last week, reported LAist. Uber charges customers more during peak hours, and, according to some reports, customers were not informed about the surge pricing—which, on one New Year’s Eve, sent prices for rides into the hundreds-of-dollars range—until after the trip.

While it didn’t receive nearly as many complaints as Uber, ride-sharing company Lyft was also given an F rating.

Have you tried Uber or Lyft? How was the ride? Share your thoughts with us on Facebook.

Additional articles on health and safety are available to the public free of charge through our office. To request one, please call 888-752-7474 or contact us online.

October 9, 2014

Los Angeles Parking Conditions Could Improve Soon

English: A car with a parking ticket in Tel Aviv

English: A car with a parking ticket in Tel Aviv (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Have you ever spent a seeming eternity circling city blocks looking for parking and then, once you’ve finally found a free spot, been baffled by signage giving you conflicting information as to whether or not you can even park there? We’ve all been there, right? Well, thanks to the efforts of some City Council members, Los Angeles parking conditions could improve soon.

Yesterday, City Council members asked transportation officials to approve two programs that could ease Los Angeles parking conditions by providing drivers with less confusing signs and prohibiting the use of mobile apps to auction off metered parking spots for profit, reported the Los Angeles Times. A local graphic artist has created a grid-like format for the new signs that divides parking restrictions by day and hour and uses green and red time blocks to indicate when it’s permissible to park. The Department of Transportation will test the new design out over the next 45 days prior to issuing its approval. The Times did not indicate when a decision on the ban on selling public parking places would be made.

Are Los Angeles Parking Conditions the Worst?

While many studies have credited Los Angeles with having the worst traffic, we could not find any giving it the honor of worst parking as well. In fact, Los Angeles did not even rank among the ten worst cities in a recent survey by NerdWallet.com, a consumer finance and health advocacy website. After taking into consideration the actual cost of parking and the likelihood of car theft, the website composed the following list:

Worst Cities to Park

1. Chicago, IL
2. Oakland, CA
3. San Francisco, CA
4. New York, NY
5. Boston, MA
6. Honolulu, HI
7. Washington, DC
8. Seattle, WA
9. Philadelphia, PA
10. Sacramento, CA

After spending hours driving from one place to another, at least we’re not paying as much as motorists in other cities to park once we finally reach our destinations—and hopefully soon we’ll find a spot in less time too.

What do you think of these two proposed programs? Will they improve Los Angeles parking conditions? Share your thoughts with us on Facebook.

Want to check out some of our other articles on transportation, health, and safety? Call 888-752-7474 or contact us online to request them free of charge.

October 3, 2014

Disneyland Ride Stalled, Stranding Passengers in the Heat

A ride at Disneyland stalled yesterday afternoon, stranding passengers for about two hours in sweltering heat, reported the Los Angeles Times. Passengers endured 90-degree weather on Mickey’s Fun Wheel at California Adventure until cast members helped them off, just months after technical problems forced passengers to be escorted off of the California Screamin’ roller coaster. By 6 p.m. about 30 riders had been evacuated from the 150-foot-high wheel—and they were not pleased, with one rider tweeting, ‘Stuck on @Disneyland CA ferris wheel solid 25 mins.. Anxiety not good at 100+ feet.’

How Frequently Do Rides Malfunction at Disneyland?

For a large amusement park that operates year-round, we don’t hear about rides at Disneyland malfunctioning too often. Historically, however, one case is unforgettable: In 2003, two bolts on the left guide wheel assembly of a locomotive on the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad ride fell off, causing an axle to jam into the railroad’s ties. The locomotive then nose-dived, its rear hitting the top of the tunnel, the force snapping a tow bar connecting the locomotive to the lead passenger car, causing it to slam into the locomotive’s undercarriage. Twenty-two-year-old graphic artist Marcelo Torres was killed and 10 others were seriously injured.

A state investigation revealed a mechanic had failed to tighten bolts and attach a safety wire on the wheel assembly that fell off. At the time, the maintenance guidelines at Disneyland allowed workers to sign for procedures done by others, and a manager had declared the ride safe without inspecting it. Lastly, despite hearing a clanking for at least 30 minutes before the accident, operators kept the ride running.

After the accident, Disneyland was ordered to retrain ride maintenance workers, managers, and ride operator; to have mandatory test runs; and to require those who performed maintenance on rides to confirm their work was completed.

This case was not the first time the actions of Disneyland employees contributed to a serious accident. In September 2000, 4-year-old Brandon Zucker tumbled out of a spinning “taxicab” on the Roger Rabbit Car Toon Spin ride and his 45-pound body became trapped under another car for 10 minutes. He suffered serious brain damage and never talked or walked again. After years of deteriorating health, he died at the age of 13. An investigation revealed Disneyland employees failed to properly load Brandon onto the ride, with the smallest child farthest from the cutout entryway, and did not fully lower the lap bar.

In both of these cases, Disneyland settled for an undisclosed amount three days before trial.

How Many Civil Cases Are Brought Against Disney Annually?

While California law makes it easier to win in court against theme parks by holding them liable not only for outright negligence but also for the ‘slightest failure of care,’ many of the civil cases brought against Disneyland each year are dismissed. In 2012, the Orange County Register reported that a third of cases filed against Disneyland over the prior five years had been dismissed. One reason: several of the cases were frivolous, such as Darth Vader accidently hitting a woman while shooing a bird away. For an amusement park that sees nearly 16 million people a year, such filings are not surprising.

What do you think? Have you ever been hurt at Disneyland or another amusement park? Share your thoughts with us on Facebook.

Additional articles on health and safety are available to the public free of charge through our office. To request one, please call 888-752-7474 or contact us online.

September 26, 2014

Ride Sharing Companies in Trouble for Safety Violations

Los Angeles Times Building, downtown Los Angeles

Los Angeles Times Building, downtown Los Angeles (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Catching a cab can be challenging, costly, and sometimes an all-around bad experience if the driver is rude. For years, that was our only option. Getting a lift in a stranger’s car was, understandably, considered dangerous and out of the question—if we recall correctly, it even had a name: hitchhiking. Technology has brought us a long way, though, and now ride sharing services are so pervasive we’re often finding ourselves accidently hopping into the first Prius we see thinking it’s our Lyft driver. Unfortunately, despite assurances of thorough criminal background checks from these companies, their drivers’ records may not be as clean as they’ve led us to believe.

Ride Sharing Companies Under Fire for Misleading Customers

Authorities in San Francisco and Los Angeles are targeting ride sharing companies for “conducting business improperly,” specifically “misleading customers about how thoroughly criminal background and driving record checks are conducted,” reported the Los Angeles Times. In San Francisco, District Attorney George Gascon is ordering Sidecar to remove all claims about background checks from its website and app.

Incidents of Ride Sharing Service Driver Misconduct

Two recent incidents of ride sharing service driver misconduct support the allegations of California authorities that these companies are not conducting as thorough of criminal background checks as they claim. Last November, an Uber driver who was on probation for battery and narcotics charges assaulted a passenger in San Francisco’s Castro District. Then in June, an Uber driver was arrested on suspicion of kidnapping a passenger for the purpose of sexual assault in Los Angeles.

Until ride sharing companies improve their screening process for drivers, we may want to use these services with caution or not at all—even if they say they’ve made changes, how can we trust them given how they’ve mislead us in the past?

What do you think? Would you use ride sharing services? Share your thoughts with us on Facebook.
Additional articles on health and public safety are available to the public free of charge through our office. To request one, please call 888-752-7474 or contact us online.

September 19, 2014

Ontario: Two Killed in Teen Driver Car Crash

At about 10:30 p.m. on Thursday, September 18, 2014, two female passengers were killed in a car crash involving an unlicensed teen driver in Ontario, reported the Los Angeles Times. While traveling at a high rate of speed near South Grove Avenue and East Airport Drive, the 16-year-old male driver lost control, causing the car to jump the center median, slam into a wall, and flip before crashing into a traffic pole. Emergency responders transported the driver and a male passenger to an area hospital to receive treatment for non-life-threatening trauma. Authorities are investigating the accident.

Car Crash—The Leading Cause of Teen Driver & Passenger Death

Motor vehicle collisions are the leading cause of death for teenagers in the Unites States, claiming the lives of seven teens aged 16 to 19 every day in 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That year, car crashes killed 2,700 teens and injured another 282,000. In Ontario, 15 of the 808 crashes that resulted in injury or death involved drivers under the age of 21. Compared to 54 other cities with similarly sized populations, Ontario ranked the 9th worst.

Factors Contributing to Teen Driver Car Crashes

Inexperience and a propensity toward risk-taking make teen drivers more likely to fail to notice or to underestimate dangerous situations.

Speeding and driving under the influence are major problems for teenage drivers, especially males: in 2010, 39 percent of the male drivers aged 15 to 20 involved in deadly accidents were speeding at the time and 25 percent had been drinking.

Teenage drivers have the lowest rate of seat belt use compared to motorists in other age groups, with only 54 percent of high school students reporting that they wore seat belts while riding with other passengers in 2011.

The risk of a crash increases with the number of teen passengers in the vehicle.

For more information on teen drivers and the rights of the victims of fatal crashes and their families, please call 888-752-7474 or contact us online.

Everyone at Allen, Flatt, Ballidis, and Leslie would like to offer our condolences to the families of the two female passengers who were killed in this car crash. We would also like to wish a full recovery to those who were injured.

September 11, 2014

Should Student Injured in Newport Beach Accident Get Education Re-Do?

Newport Harbor High School logo

Newport Harbor High School logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In 2011, a Newport Beach accident involving a drunk driver left Crystal Morales, then a senior at Newport Harbor High School, in a coma with a traumatic brain injury. When she returned to school about three months after the crash, she was given assignments but not required to turn them in and her grades quickly started improving, in one class from a D to an A-. In her opinion, the school’s staff gave her a pass to graduate, cheating her out of a quality education. Now she’s suing the school, requesting that Newport-Mesa Unified School District invalidate her diploma and allow her to re-do the last few months of her senior year.

In court papers filed in response to the lawsuit, the school district indicated that Morales’ mother, Gloria, refused an assessment for special education for her daughter after the Newport Beach accident and was adamant that her daughter graduate with a high school diploma, reported the Los Angeles Times.

The elder Morales said, “that she didn’t understand what her daughter would miss out on by graduating.”

While it remains to be seen if Morales is given a second chance to take her senior year curriculum, what is clear is that she is yet another victim of drunk driving. Annually, DUI crashes claim nearly 10,000 lives and more than one-third of the victims are not the drunk drivers, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In 2011, 3,371 of the people who lost their lives in alcohol-related crashes were not the drunk driver.

After pleading guilty to driving under the influence, the driver responsible for the Newport Beach accident that injured Morales was sentenced to seven years in prison.

What do you think? Should Crystal Morales get an education re-do? Share your thoughts with us on Facebook.

Additional articles on health and public safety are available to the public free of charge through our office. To request one, please call 888-752-7474 or contact us online.

September 5, 2014

Six Get Food Poisoning at Newport Beach Restaurant

Shigella boydii

Shigella boydii (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Six people experienced the symptoms of food poisoning after eating at Newport Beach restaurant True Food Kitchen, reported the Orange County Register. After eating at the Fashion Island restaurant, which offers plant-based and other health-oriented options, on August 21, 23, 24, and 25, the diners came down with severe diarrhea and tested positive for the intestinal bacteria shigella. Investigators suspect the bacteria was passed from ‘person to person,’ as none of the victims ate the same dish. The county shut down True Food Kitchen on August 28, allowing it to reopen last Saturday after it sanitized the restaurant and disposed of all ready-to-eat foods. Replacement staff will be serving diners until all regular employees are tested and cleared to return to work.

Shigellosis as a Cause of Food Poisoning

An infectious disease caused by a group of bacteria called Shigella, Shigellosis causes diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps a day or two after victims become infected. Symptoms usually last for 5 to 7 days, and hospitalization is rarely necessary for cases in the United States. Antibiotic treatment is only necessary when patients are already suffering from severe disease or compromised immune systems. Not all victims experience symptoms and may unknowingly spread the bacteria to others.

While about 14,000 cases of shigellosis are reported annually in the U.S., the number of infections may be twenty times greater than this because milder cases are seldom diagnosed or reported, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Poor hygiene is often a cause of shigellosis, especially in child-care settings. Toddlers aged 2 to 4 are most likely to become infected, and infections are more common in summer than in winter.

Washing hands with soap carefully and frequently—especially after using the restroom or changing diapers—and ensuring children do the same is an effective way to prevent the spread of shigellosis-associated food poisoning.

Where to Report Food Poisoning in Orange County

Those experiencing the symptoms of food poisoning may report their cases to the Orange County Environmental Health Department by calling 714-433-6418 or filing a complaint online.

What do you think? Would you eat at True Food Restaurant after this food poisoning incident? Share your thoughts with us on Facebook.

Additional articles on public health and safety are available through our office free of charge. To request one, please call 888-752-7474 or contact us online.

August 29, 2014

Bike Riding to Become Safer in Santa Ana

English: Bike lanes were created in 2010 on Ja...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Bike riding and walking is about to become safer in Santa Ana. California has awarded the city $3 million in grant funds to add new bicycle lanes and upgrade traffic signals, reported the Orange County Register. Along with several other cities across the state, Santa Ana applied for funding for the projects with the California Transportation Commission through its Active Transportation Program, which received requests for a total of $184 million in projects. Approved for six of the eleven projects it submitted to the agency, Santa Ana will spend the funding it receives on ‘bicycle boulevards’ along Bishop Street, Pacific Avenue, and Shelton Street and on designated bike lanes along Newhope Street, Civic Center Drive, and Grand Avenue. It will also be modifying traffic lights and signage near schools.

Much of the population relies on bike riding and walking to get around, so hopefully these improvements will have an affect on Santa Ana’s poor safety record for bicycle and pedestrian accidents. In 2011, the most current year for which the California Office of Traffic Safety has published accident data, Santa Ana ranked 4th out 13 cities with populations of over 250,000 for bicycle and pedestrian accidents in a ranking system in which 1st place is considered the worst.

Improving a city’s infrastructure for bike riding and walking is a critical element of any motor vehicle crash reduction program, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. This includes ensuring the city is equipped with signed routes, marked lanes, wide curb lanes, and paved shoulders, as well as sidewalks, crosswalks, curb ramps, and paths.

Adding bike lanes can not only reduce injuries but also boost the economy: after adding protected bike lanes to two car-congested streets in Manhattan, 8th and 9th Avenues, the city’s transportation department recorded a 35 percent drop in accident-related injuries for all street users on 8th Avenue and a 58 percent decrease on 9th Avenue. Business along 9th Avenue reported a 50 percent increase in income from retail sales—which is understandable, as stopping to make a purchase or check out a new business is much easier on a bicycle than in a car.

We’re looking forward to seeing how the new infrastructure in Santa Ana improves bike riding and walking, and maybe even the economy and traffic congestion too.

What do you think of Santa Ana’s new transportation projects? Share your thoughts with us on Facebook.

Additional articles on health and public safety are available to the public free of charge through our office. To request one, please call 888-752-7474 or contact us online.

August 20, 2014

Peanut & Almond Butter Sold in Health & Grocery Stores Recalled

Peanut butter is a semi-solid and can therefor...

Peanut butter is a semi-solid and can therefore hold peaks. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Whether you buy your peanut or almond butter at Whole Foods, Trader Joes, or Ralphs, you should throw it out and contact the producer, nSpired Natural Foods Inc., for a refund. After routine testing of nSpired’s nut butters revealed the risk of Salmonella contamination, the Food and Drug Administration announced yesterday that the company would be voluntarily recalling several lots of its products.

The recall affects peanut, almond, and nut butters sold under the following brands: Arrowhead Mills, MaraNatha, Kroger, Safeway, Trader Joes, and Whole Foods’ 365 label. Four illnesses that may be related to the use of these products have been reported. For a complete listing of recalled items, visit the FDA’s website.

To request a refund or a replacement, contact nSpired Natural Foods Inc. at 1-800-937-7008 between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. CT.

Salmonella causes an estimated 1.2 million illnesses, 23,000 hospitalizations, and 450 deaths in the United States every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The onset of symptoms, which include diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps, occurs 12 to 72 hours after infection. The illness usually persists for four to seven days and does not require medical treatment. In severe cases, however, hospitalization may be necessary and the infection may spread from the intestines into the blood stream, possibly causing death. Individuals with impaired immune systems, the elderly, and infants are more susceptible to severe illness.

Additional articles on health and public safety are available free of charge through our office. To request one, please call 888-752-7474 or contact us online.

August 19, 2014

L.A. Council: Fix Sidewalks with Biggest Risk of Legal Liability First

Broken asphalt road by Chuetsu Earthquake, 200...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In their 40 years practicing personal injury law in California, the lawyers in our office have handled hundreds of cases involving pedestrians injured in accidents that were the result of the failure of city governments to properly maintain walkways. In Los Angeles, where 40 percent of the sidewalks were estimated to be damaged in the late 1990s—a proportion that’s most likely grown by now—and where citizens routinely file trip-and-fall claims against the city, officials have decided to use their $27 million budget to fix the sidewalks with the biggest risk of legal liability first, reported the Los Angeles Times.

In order to avoid liability for pedestrian accidents on property for which the city “is indisputably responsible” and to ensure access to public amenities, sidewalks on or near city properties like parks and libraries will be repaired first, though this year’s budget will not cover the cost to fix all of them.

As for fixing the buckled, crumbling sidewalks lining residents’ homes, the L.A. City Council is still debating who should pay for the repairs. Under California law, property owners are responsible for properly maintaining their sidewalks. In the 1970s, the city voluntarily repaired sidewalks that had been damaged by street trees, shifting the burden of maintaining them away from homeowners and onto the city. However, the city lacked the resources for such a program and soon left sidewalks to deteriorate. One proposal is to have the city share responsibility for sidewalk repair with property owners by splitting the cost.

While L.A.’s dilapidated sidewalks are not the only cause of pedestrian accidents and injuries, they’re certainly a contributing factor to the city’s poor pedestrian safety ranking. In a comparison of 13 cities with populations of over 250,000, the California Office of Traffic Safety ranked Los Angeles the 3rd worst for pedestrian accidents.

What do you think? Should homeowners split the bill for sidewalk repairs with the city?

Additional articles on transportation safety and the civil claims process after an accident are available through our office free of charge. To request one, please call 888-752-7474 or contact us online.

August 15, 2014

Anyone Hear of Morgellons?

I was introduced to this terrible condition two years ago. So why discuss this today? How is it relevant to you? Please take a moment to read on.

A good friend started having breakouts that caused him to feel like bugs were crawling under his skin. He became quite sick, as did a family member. Soon, he was at the doctor’s office and undergoing multiple tests.

Eventually, all the tests came back normal. He had neither a virus nor an apparent bacterial infection nor elevated chemical panels in his liver or kidneys. The doctors threw up their hands saying, “We do not know what it is.”

He began to research the condition. I hired a professional researcher to help as well. When he examined the lesion on his skin, he could pull out a fibrous material. Under a microscope it looked a lot like Morgellons.


Despite the physical evidence, doctors were telling my friend that his condition isn’t explainable; that he must be picking at his skin causing this condition and that it is probably stress. Some people have been under the same scrutiny and getting the same advice as you can see from this site discussing Morgellons.

Soon we had numerous physical specimens. We also had plenty of doctors telling us that they weren’t identifiable. The experience was harrowing for him, a real hardship.

Ultimately, we discovered that thousands of people suffer from this and are without any help. See the latest study of Kaiser patients.

My friend moved out of the home in which he had been living at the onset of his symptoms. In the following months, his condition cleared up. We concluded something in his prior home must have been causing the breakouts.

We are only speculating, but the incidence of Morgellons seems to be growing, especially in California. His house was like so many, nothing unusual, but there was something in it that must not have been right. Fortunately, he moved and his condition improved.

We are of the unscientific opinion that the cause of Morgellons is something normally found in many homes, and yet the scientific and medical communities want to treat it as a disease of the mind. I am convinced something lurking in all our homes is a contributing factor—though some homes may be worse than others and some people more susceptible.

A new site has recently been added to the web, Solvemorgellons.com. Its creator is proposing exactly what we suspected: the environment in the home is causing the condition. If you know anyone with this oft-misunderstood condition, refer him or her to the site. I imagine in the coming months, the results may prove it necessary for all of us to test the environments of our homes.

Additional articles on health and public safety are available to the public free of charge through our office. To request one, please call 888-752-7474 or contact us online.