Thursday, August 30, 2012

Tractor-Trailer Pushes Car Off The Road

Article originally published on by Tad Miller on 8/23/2012. Original article may be found here.

"A tractor-trailer recently crashed into the rear of a van in Upper Milford Township, pushing that vehicle into woods and up an embankment, according to police.
The van's occupants were slightly hurt, but did not require medical treatment, said state police at Foglesville.

James M. Amplo, 56, of Pottstown, Montgomery County, was driving the Ford Econoline E-250 van on Chestnut Street, also known as Route 29, at 5:25 p.m. Aug. 18. He was stopped for a vehicle in front of him that was turning about 1/4 mile from Batman Road, police said.
A Freightliner tractor-trailer, driven by John J. Kovatch, 28, of Nesquehoning, Carbon County, came up behind Amplo's van and was unable to avoid impact, police said. The van was pushed off the road, traveled 30 feet and came to rest up an embankment. The tractor-trailer traveled an additional 60 feet before stopping.
Amplo received minor injuries but did not require medical treatment, police said. The same was true of his passenger, Stephen R. Girard, 26, of Blue Bell, Montgomery County.
Neither Kovatch nor his passenger, Trajan S. Koerbler, 27, of Nesquehoning, was injured, police said.
Kovatch was cited for driving at an unsafe speed, police said."

Tractor-trailers can be very dangerous on the Pennsylvania state highways and roads.  Often, these drivers are moving at dangerous speeds and may also be tired and not pay attention to the road.  If you or a loved one has been injured in a tractor-trailer accident, it may be time to consult with an attorney.  Attorney Doug Stoehr is a personal injury lawyer serving western and central Pennsylvania.  For more information on his firm, please click here.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Watertown Daily Times | “Inattention” caused multi-fatal crash, state police say

Watertown Daily Times | “Inattention” caused multi-fatal crash, state police say

This is definitely an article worth reading addressing the aftermath of distracted driving as it relates to tractor-trailer drivers. Even though this story came from New York, this is not a far cry from similar accidents in Pennsylvania.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Tractor-Trailers Could Get Even Bigger

Story originally published at by Greg Clary on 2/2/2012.  Original article may be found here.

"Could tractor-trailer rigs almost as long as Boeing 737s be driving on a highway near you? If a new transportation bill proposed by House Republicans passes, the answer is yes, and the safety ramifications would be astronomical, say congressional opponents of the bill and the AAA Auto Club.
The American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act introduced Tuesday by Republicans would authorize about $260 billion over five years to fund federal highway programs.
The legislation also contains a controversial provision allowing heavier tractor-trailer trucks on highways by increasing the federal weight limit from 80,000 pounds to 97,000 pounds. In some cases, it would allow 126,000-pound trucks onto highways.
The legislation also allows the largest rigs, which comprise two and sometimes three trailers, to be as much as 10 feet longer -- a total length of more than 100 feet.
While statistics from 2010 show overall traffic fatalities declining across the nation, truck crash fatalities actually increased 9%, to 3,675, according to statistics from the Truck Safety Coalition.
Opponents of the proposed legislation say having even bigger trucks on the roads would increase the amount of fatalities because bigger trucks take longer to stop and their crashes are even more destructive.
"If there was ever a recipe for disaster, this is it," said Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-New Jersey, chairman of the Commerce Subcommittee on Surface Transportation. "We all value the importance of trucks to our economy, to our recovery ... but the trucks have to share the roads with our families, and that's why we're never going to let trucks take a priority over the well-being of our families."
But the Coalition for Transportation Productivity, a transportation advocacy group, says heavier trucks don't create safety issues so long as states make sure to require the trucks to have a sixth axle.
"The truck weight provision in the bill simply gives states the ability to open all, or portions of, their interstate networks to more productive, single-trailer trucks equipped with six axles rather than the typical five. Without changing truck size, the required sixth axle maintains all braking and handling characteristics at the new limit of 97,000 pounds," John Runyan, executive director of the coalition said in a written statement.
Besides safety issues, opponents also say bigger trucks would put further stress on already deteriorating roads and bridges.
"At a time when we are seriously under-investing in the nation's transportation infrastructure, allowing bigger and heavier trucks on our roads and bridges is a step in the wrong direction," said Jill Ingrassia, AAA managing director of government relations and traffic safety advocacy.
The bill is heading for a hearing in the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on Thursday, and Rep. James McGovern, D-Massachusetts, a member of the committee, said he will use everything in his power, including working with the Senate and the Obama administration, to get this provision taken out of the bill.
"I feel confident we're going to prevail here, but we're here to tell the leadership of the House that we're raring for a fight here," McGovern said. "We are going to fight. This is a serious issue." "

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Elder Health Care Fraud Case In Court

Article originally published by on 8/22/2012 by Margaret Gibbons. Link to original story may be found here.

A co-defendant Tuesday pointed the finger at an Upper Southampton man as the one who allegedly spearheaded a home health services insurance scam bilking thousands of dollars from seniors for services that were never provided.
Bruce H. Cherry, 52, of Philadelphia, testified on the witness stand that he sold many of the American Home Care service contracts to the seniors, who primarily were school teachers. However, when he would receive calls from clients and/or their representatives that they were not receiving the services they requested, he would turn that information over to Ross M. Rabelow, 53, of the 500 block of Jason Drive, Upper Southampton.
In one particular case, Cherry said, he received repeated calls from a client’s roommate requesting services for the woman. He said he told the roommate that someone from the office would get back to her.
Cherry, who said he was concerned he would lose his commission on the sale of the contract if the services were not provided and the contract was voided, testified he also told Rabelow about the calls.
“Ross told me it was none of my business,” said Cherry, who was wearing a navy blue inmate uniform from the Montgomery County prison where he has been held in lieu of $1 million bail since his arrest May 21. “(Rabelow) said it was his business to provide the services. My job was just to sell the contracts.”
Cherry said that, “to the best of my knowledge,” the woman never received the services for which she had paid and which had been requested.
Cherry’s testimony came during the first day of Rabelow’s preliminary hearing before District Judge Paul N. Leo, who will have decide whether there is sufficient evidence to hold Rabelow for trial.
Like Cherry, Rabelow is charged with participating in a corrupt organization, theft, unfair business practices, insurance fraud, conspiracy and dealings in proceeds of unlawful practices.
Rabelow posted $1 million in cash bail on June 21 and has been out of jail since then.
Thomas J. Muldoon, 58, a Delaware County resident and the third suspect in the case, is behind bars in lieu of $1 million bail. Robert P. Lerner, 56, of Philadelphia, is the fourth co-defendant. Charged with most of the same charges except for corrupt organizations, Lerner has been in jail in lieu of $250,000 cash bail.
Cherry, Muldoon and Lerner all have waived their rights to a preliminary hearing and now will be scheduled for trial in county court on the charges brought against them by the state Attorney General’s Office.
Senior Deputy Attorney General M. Eric Schoenberg, who is prosecuting the case, said no immunity was offered to Cherry for his testimony and no deal has been cut as a result of his cooperation.
Defense attorney Gregory Noonan told Leo that there was no specific deal.
Schoenberg declined comment on whether Cherry’s cooperation will be considered at the time of sentencing if he is convicted of the charges against him.
“Generally speaking, when a defendant cooperates, there is some expectation on his part that that cooperation will be reflected in any sentence,” said Schoenberg.
In announcing the arrests of the four at a press conference on May 22, state Attorney General Linda Kelly alleged the four had sold seniors thousands of dollars of contracts for bogus home care, home security and counseling services.
At that time, Kelly reported that there were at least 218 alleged victims who were bilked a combined $700,000-plus. Since that time, additional alleged victims have come forward and additional charges have been filed against the four. However, to date, the new number of alleged victims and the dollar amounts have not been tallied.
The bulk of the victims, including a handful that lived in three other states, are primarily from Southeast Pennsylvania including 10 to 15 victims each from Montgomery, Bucks, Delaware, Northampton, Lancaster and Berks counties. The largest number of victims, 24, live in Lehigh County.
The average age of the victims was 83, according to Kelly. Most were women, widowed and living alone without nearby family, said Kelly.
Testifying earlier at Rabelow’s preliminary hearing, Special Agent Karen M. Tempinski said the Attorney General’s Office began looking into the scam after fielding a complaint from a Hatboro senior who said she had purchased insurance counseling services but that the service had failed to pay the premium for a legitimate health care policy that she had even though she had written the service a check to cover that premium.
Looking at contracts that the woman had with other companies related to that counseling service, she learned that the woman had a prepaid contract with American Comfort for a specific number of hours of home care services at a cost of between $1.59 and $2.52 an hour. Knowing that was well below the industry rate of between $15 and $20 for such services, Tempinski said that, with the help of an investigating grand jury, she continued the investigation.
Tempinski testified that, in reviewing bank records, she learned that only 3 percent of the money collected from clients went to pay for services. The rest of the funds went into the pockets of those connected with the business while it also was used to pay Rabelow’s mortgage, cars and even student loans.
Tempinski and other investigators began contacting those who purchased the contracts and discovered that often, after requests were made, services were never provided or were only minimally involved.
Testimony will continue Wednesday in Rabelow’s preliminary hearing, which could last into Friday.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Elder Abuse In Your Own Home

Article originally printed in The Eagle-Tribune on July 29, 2012 By Erica Moura, Pamela Cyran, Shuyi Wang and Jan Brogan. Excerpts are given below, and full article can be found here.

When Chris Sergio hired someone to take care of his elderly mother on the three days a week his father was undergoing dialysis treatment, he thought he was taking the necessary precautions. He turned to Old Colony Elder Services, a nonprofit organization that provides elder care services to 23 cities and towns, which gave him a list of three agencies. He chose Home Instead Senior Care of East Bridgewater, a well-established company with a good reputation both locally and nationally, according to Diana L. DiGiorgi, executive director of Old Colony.

Home Instead sent Debra Blair Belcher, a home care aide, to provide non-medical assistance to Sergio’s mother, who suffers from dementia.Belcher seemed like a perfect fit until Sergio’s parents noticed that their wedding rings and pieces of silverware were missing from their Middleboro home.“I was furious with her for taking advantage of a person with dementia, and she did it on a weekly basis,” said Sergio, who said thousands of dollars worth of jewelry and flatware was stolen.  Belcher, who was charged under her maiden name Debra Blair, was found guilty of larceny from a person older than 60–years-old in Wareham District Court last year. Later, in Brockton District Court, she was convicted of similar charges after other clients in Abington, East Bridgewater and Brockton brought similar complaints. She was to serve one year behind bars and is now out on probation until June 2013.

The Belcher case illustrates the risks the elderly face in an era when an increasingly aging population would rather live at home with an infirmity than move into a nursing home. When reimbursed by Medicare and Medicaid, home health agencies fall under federal regulation and state oversight. Although reports about elder abuse and theft are lodged with both the Department of Public Health and the Executive Office of Elder Affairs, no single agency in state government is tracking either the total number of complaints involving private-pay home care workers or the type of complaints.

“In a state that licenses hairdressers, you would think that they would want more oversight of the people who take care of the elderly in their homes,” said Timothy Burgers, associate director for the Home Care Alliance, a statewide home care trade association that is drafting a bill for the 2013 legislative session. The Home Care Alliance, which represents both Medicare-certified home health care and unregulated direct pay agencies, would like to see one state agency dedicated to the oversight of the industry. It also wants the state to set minimum standards for employee qualifications, training and supervision. A similar bill that the Alliance supported in 2007 died in committee.

Nationally, MetLife Insurance, in partnership with researchers at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and the University of Kentucky, monitored the National Center on Elder Abuse’s newsfeed for three months period in 2010. During that period, family, friends, neighbors and caregivers committed 34 percent of reported financial crimes against the elderly. Slightly more than 20 percent of them were paid caregivers, according to detailed statistics provided by Shalana N. Morris, MetLife spokeswoman.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

"Granny Snatching" Outlawed In PA

Information taken from Daily Local News article written on 7/23/2012 by Janet M. Colliton. Full story can be found by clicking this link.

Recently, the Pennsylvania legislative bodies passed a ruling outlawing "granny snatching" in Pennsylvania.  Formally known as the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, this law would address issues surrounding legal guardianship. Before this law was passed, instances of family members taking elderly relatives out of nursing homes or other facilities across state lines while legal guardianship battles were occurring was a fairly well-known occurrence.  This act, known as "granny snatching", was a significant problem for places like nursing homes and assisted living facilities. 

The example given in the Daily Local News article gives a good example of the problems surrounding granny snatching: "Suppose, for instance, you apply for guardianship in Pennsylvania for your mother who has lived here all her life. Another relative or acquaintance, without your knowledge, signs her out of a personal care home or takes her from home and makes arrangements to transport her out of state. That person files for guardianship in another state. Without a uniform act where each state recognizes the other state’s proceedings, the result could be a nightmare.  Decisions made in one jurisdiction might or might not be enforced in another. Each state could have conflicting orders."

As a result of these problems, many states passed the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act. A nationwide legal guardianship law is also being considered so that all states operate under a consistent system. This national law, called the Uniform Guardianship Law,  would establish the concept of a “home state” for proper jurisdiction initially which will reduce confusion later on if the person under guardianship moves across state lines.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Dangers of Shift Work

Article taken from, By STACEY SCHOTT, M.D., ABC News Medical Unit  on July 26, 2012:

"More bad news for late-shift workers: Their odd hours may be raising their risk of heart attack and stroke.
So says a new, large-scale study in the British Medical Journal that adds these two problems -- which fit into a broader category known as vascular disease -- to the previously known risks of shift work. Previous research had suggested that working the graveyard shift, the swing shift or any irregular shift other than the traditional 9-to-5 is linked to high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity.
British and Canadian researchers analyzed the findings of 34 studies that included more than 2 million people who had work schedules including anything other than regular daytime hours. They found that shift work was linked to a 23 percent increased risk of heart attack and a 5 percent increased risk of stroke. Those working night shifts seemed to be at the highest risk.
The study authors said it pays for workers to know that their jobs may put them at increased risk.
"The increased risk of vascular disease apparent in shift workers, regardless of its explanation, suggests that people who do shift work should be vigilant about risk factor modification," they wrote in the report.

A variety of factors -- not just the shift work itself -- could be culprit in increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke for people in those occupations. A lack of sleep, poor eating habits and lower levels of physical activity could plague those who work irregular hours and drive up the risk of vascular disease.
Dr. Robert Bonow, professor of medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and past president of the American Heart Association, said it's possible that people working jobs requiring shift work may be economically disadvantaged and have less access to health care -- two factors generally associated with unfavorable health outcomes.
However, the study authors noted that the increased risk of vascular events was still present even when they accounted for things like unhealthy eating, smoking and socioeconomic status -- evidence that something about the nature of shift work other than poor health behaviors might be at play.
But what could it be? One possibility is disruption in circadian rhythm, a feature inherent in shift work. These disruptions can certainly have an effect on heart rate and blood pressure -- two measures intimately tied to vascular health, said Dr. Carl Lavie, a cardiologist at Ochsner Medical Center in New Orleans.
Since shift work is a necessary evil for more than a third of the working population, it is unreasonable to think that everyone can simply change their schedules.
"My advice would be to exercise and make sure their fitness is at a high level, and then I'd treat their risk factors vigorously," Lavie said. He added that if you are a shift worker it is important to recognize that treatments you might be getting for blood pressure control, weight control and cholesterol may be more important for you than someone at a lower risk.
Bonow agreed. "There's somewhat of a signal here, and people who do shift work should be aware that their risk factors should be identified and managed." "

Not only does shift work increase the risk of heart attack and stroke, it can also lead to severe fatigue.  Consequently, shift workers may be more likely to cause or be involved in motor vehicle accidents. If you were involved in a motor vehicle accident due to the fault of another, it may be time to consider consulting an attorney.  Attorney Doug Stoehr specializes in motor vehicle accidents in western and central Pennsylvania. Learn more about his firm here.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Cyclists Injured In Pittsburgh

According to a news article by the website, there have been a wave of bicycle accidents on Penn Avenue in Pittsburgh. As stated in the article, there have been two fatal bicycle crashes in a week on Penn Avenue in the East End.  Although it is legal to ride bicycles on that street, it has become a dangerous part of the city to bike through due to the road traffic.  Bike Pittsburgh, a large interest group for cyclists, was also simultaneously preparing for one of Pennsylvania's biggest cycling events that weekend.  Yesterday, "more than 3,000 cyclists rode in Pedal Pittsburgh, which kicks off a two-week-long BikeFest celebration. BikeFest features shared-road-type events, which means motorists should be aware of many more bicyclists on the streets and will encounter more group rides than usual."  One bicyclist interviewed in Pittsburgh said that he rides Penn Avenue twice a week, and every time he rides there, he almost gets hit.  He has also been hit three times, once on Penn Avenue. 

As the summer weather improves, many people gravitate outside to run, bike, walk, and spend time with their families. Although this can provide an excellent outlet for fun and recreation, it can also lead to potential bicycle and pedestrian accidents. When driving this summer, be alert for pedestrians and bicyclists on the road, especially small children that may not be easily seen. By being alert and considerate and sharing the road, you will avoid serious injuries and complications to those around you. If you plan to bike or run this summer, wear bright colors and make sure that you give appropriate and clear turning signals with your arms so that drivers know when and where you intend to turn.

Attorney Douglas V. Stoehr works with clients who have been injured in pedestrian and bicycle accidents. If you would like a consultation regarding your personal injury, please contact our law office.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

PA Trucker Kills 6 in Highway Accident

Article originally appeared in on Friday, July 2012 via the Associated Press. Link to the article may be found here.

"ANTWERP, N.Y. -- Police are probing the cause of a crash in a northern New York roadwork zone that killed six people on Thursday.  Meanwhile, police said the tractor-trailer driver who started the fiery, chain-reaction crash is James A. Mills Jr., 45, of Myerstown, Lebanon County, Pa.  A state police accident reconstruction team is using a computer simulation program and interviewing witnesses to determine the sequence of events in the pile-up, whose victims included four family members.

 Police said Mills' truck hit several vehicles that had slowed or stopped where paving was being done on Route 11 in Jefferson County. Five died in an SUV that burst into flames. A state transportation worker whose truck erupted in flames was hospitalized in critical condition, and a woman whose SUV flipped over died at a hospital.
Police said two other tractor-trailers were struck in the crash in Antwerp, N.Y., but were only slightly damaged.
Mills was taken to a hospital for toxicology tests and released. The county district attorney’s office is investigating whether any charges are warranted, said Trooper Jack Keller.

State police identified the driver of the SUV that exploded in flames as Laurie Dana, 42, an elementary school speech therapist from Lawrence, a rural town about 60 miles northeast of the crash site and 15 miles south of the Canadian border. Also in the vehicle were her two daughters, Caitlyn, 14, and Lauryn, 11, and her mother-in-law, Janet Dana, 69. The fifth victim was Shannon Planty, 14, a friend of Caitlyn.

The driver of the other SUV was identified as Maryann Gregory, 59, of Dickinson Center in Franklin County.
The crash happened near Fort Drum, 85 miles northeast of Syracuse. The site is on a straight, flat section of the two-lane road, the main east-west highway across four rural northern counties along the Canadian border. There were plenty of signs warning motorists that crews were working on the road, Keller said.

Michael Countryman told the Watertown Daily Times that he ran outside after hearing the loud crash and saw a vehicle engulfed in flames. “On the other side of a tractor-trailer I saw a woman upside-down in her car; I reached in and felt a pulse — barely,” he told the paper.

The vehicle’s gas tank also was leaking, he said. Countryman said he broke out a side window of Gregory’s Subaru with a hatchet. He said he and an emergency medical technician talked to the woman, but she didn’t respond.
“He handed me scissors to cut the shoulder strap, then we picked her up and put her on a board,” Countryman said.
Signage on the tractor-trailer indicates it is owned by MBM Customized Foodservice Distribution based in Rocky Mount, N.C. Keller said the truck was hauling a full load of yogurt from a plant in neighboring Franklin County. The vehicle was impounded for examination by police investigators.

Laurie Dana and her mother-in-law lived on the same stretch of Route 11 and frequently did things together, said Joyce Sheppard, who has lived two houses away from Laurie Dana for four years. The Dana family has a dairy operation and Sheppard’s retired husband sometimes helps out.

“A very nice family,” she said Thursday evening. “They were very friendly with us. She gave us a Christmas basket last year, which was nice.”  Janet Dana’s husband Don stopped by the Sheppard house to break the news to their neighbors. “I’m sorry,” Sheppard said. “We’re overwhelmed.”

Sheppard saw Laurie Dana drive by just ahead of her Thursday morning, on her way to pick up Janet Dana. “I feel terrible because I saw them and didn’t wave or anything,” she said. “They were just going on their way.”
Sheppard said Caitlyn and Lauryn were “beautiful little girls.”
She expects the community will rally around the family. “We’re just trusting in the Lord,” she said. “That’s all we can do for now.”

Truck accidents are an increasingly common occurrence as truckers often work long hours and may, as a result, become prone to distracted driving.   If you or a loved one has been injured in a motor vehicle accident with a truck driver, it may be time to seek legal counsel.  Attorney Doug Stoehr is a personal injury lawyer serving western and central Pennsylvania. For more information on his firm, please visit