Yet often overlooked. Cities! Wake up!
NYC to improve sidewalks for disabled groups, settlement rules
July 25, 2019 Dive Brief:
Listen NowDive Insight: New York City sidewalks have posed hazards to the disabled community for decades due to inaccessible curb cuts, potholes, sloped ramps, and a lack of detectable warnings for blind pedestrians.
"New York City is a very walkable city," Disability Rights Advocates' Managing Director of Litigation Michelle Caiola told Smart Cities Dive. "The ability to traverse the city streets is just a very fundamental right and it requires that the city follow these guidelines to make sure everything is in compliant condition."
New York will be required to maintain curb cuts with the same frequency that roads are repaved, ensuring that the city's heavy traffic, weather and congestion don't erode the curb cuts over time. The city has also agreed to install detectable warnings at all corners, which is crucial for individuals who are blind, according to Caiola.
The settlement should remind cities that conducting a self-analysis to address these barriers is required by the American Disabilities Act, she said.
Cities across the country are working to improve their streets and sidewalks for disabled residents and visitors. Smart Cities for All, a collaboration between G3ict and World Enabled, launched "Inclusive Innovation for Smarter Cities" last year to encourage planners to consider people with disabilities in new technology design plans. The group partnered with AT&T to launch a playbook in May that outlines the steps cities can take to prioritize accessibility.
Despite the recent progress and attention paid to designing inclusive cities, new hurdles are also arriving on city sidewalks — literally.
Disability Rights California filed a lawsuit this year against the city of San Diego and scooter companies Bird, Lime and Razor, alleging the dockless vehicles make sidewalks unsafe. Bird and Lime advise users to stay off sidewalks and park their vehicles in safe places. But beyond urging consumers to use the devices responsibility, cities and private companies have little ability to enforce the rules.
A class action lawsuit was also brought against Uber by Pittsburgh-area residents for a lack of wheelchair-accessible vehicles (WAVs) in the city. Brought by the Disability Rights Advocate (DRA) and Carlson Lynch LLP, the DRA has filed similar lawsuits against Uber in California and New York. A recent report also found that 70% of Uber and Lyft ride requests don't offer WAVs in New York City.
Private sector companies are partnering with cities to bring a growing number of options to individuals with disabilities in cities. Lyft announced in June that it would bring more WAVs to San Francisco and Los Angeles through a partnership with First Transit.
May Mobility also recently released details about a wheelchair accessible-version of its autonomous shuttle. The company plans to roll out the vehicles in Columbus, OH; Providence, RI; and Grand Rapids, MI.
A Virginia Beach man died 94 days after a fall. Those last 4 days cost his widow $100,000.
If the 75-year-old man had died four days earlier, his widow would have probably collected on a $100,000 accidental death insurance policy.
But he didn't. So she won't.
A federal judge ruled last week for the Transamerica Premier Life Insurance Company, saying Blosch's policy was clear: The death "must occur within 90 days of the accident."
"On the basis of these undisputed facts, defendant is not required to pay," U.S. District Judge Rebecca Beach Smith wrote.
Attorneys for Transamerica and Blosch's widow declined or did not respond to requests for comment.
A veteran lawyer with 40 years experience in estate planning, however, said the court's ruling was not surprising.
John Midgett compared the lawsuit in question to a Hail Mary in football. There wasn't much the lawyer, or the judge, could do in light of the facts of the case and the policy's restrictive nature.
"When it says 90 days, it mean 90 days. Not 91. Not 89," said Midgett, who was not involved in the case.
Kevin Martingayle, a past president of the Virginia State Bar, and Gerald Schwartz, a past president of the Virginia Trial Lawyers Association, said that doesn't make it right since Blosch would likely have died sooner had doctors not intervened following his fall.
“If an insured individual’s life is extended by heroic medical means, it seems absurd and unfair that those medical efforts can relieve an insurance company from having to pay simply because the life was artificially extended past a deadline," Martingayle said. He believes the General Assembly should consider getting involved to prevent future problems.
Schwartz said the law places a policy holder's family in the awkward position of having to make end-of-life decisions based on an "arbitrary and unnecessary deadline."
"It's particularly bad in today's times, where doctors take all measures to save and prolong someone's life," he said.
Darlene Blosch, the widow, sued Transamerica last year in the hopes of forcing the company to pay.
Her husband, a former Marine who worked 20 years as an electrician for Peabody Coal, had secured the group accidental death insurance policy in 1998. The original policy was issued by Peoples Benefit Life Insurance, which later merged with Monumental Life Insurance Company, which later changed its name to Transamerica.
Following Blosch's Aug. 12, death, however, Transamerica balked at paying.
Yes, Blosch fell May 10, 2018, struck his head on a sidewalk, slipped into a coma and placed on a ventilator. Yes, he was hospitalized until he died from a subdural hematoma and medical complications arising from the fall. And yes, such a death would typically be covered by the policy.
But, Transamerica's attorneys argued, Blosch waited too long to die.
"The clear, plain meaning of the policy terms precludes recovery in this case," Michele Dallman wrote earlier this year.
Albert Selkin, Darlene Blosch's attorney, attacked the legality of the policy's 90-day provision. Among other things, he said in court documents, it was not included with the rest of the policy's exceptions or exclusions provisions and that the clause offended "the public policy of Virginia." He said it required the policy holder to die in an "unreasonably short period of time."
"It is absurd that the policy doesn't cover the accidental death of one who is hospitalized and invalid from the day of the accident," Selkin wrote in court documents. "This is accidental life insurance. The policy should be honored. That's what it covers."
The judge disagreed, noting that there is no Virginia case law supporting his argument and that the Virginia Bureau of Insurance has twice signed off on Transamerica policies, which included the 90-day provisions.
"Plaintiff has not provided the court with any basis upon which to conclude that the policy should not be enforced as written," Smith wrote in her order.
In an interview, Midgett questioned the value of an accidental death life insurance policy, comparing them to extended warranties stores sell people when they buy new stereos or lawn mowers. He said such policies are generally very restrictive and rarely result in payments.
Midgett went on to urge people to read their insurance policies before they sign and not blindly accept them like a website's terms and conditions.
"They control everything. They are of critical import," he said, explaining that is the only way to know a policy really covers. "Insurance companies are not in the business of giving money away."
Scott Daugherty, 757-446-2343, email@example.com
Medicare Advantage Plans Overbill Taxpayers By Billions Annually, Records Show
Health insurers that treat millions of seniors have overcharged Medicare by nearly $30 billion over the past three years alone, but federal officials say they are moving ahead with long-delayed plans to recoup at least part of the money.
Understanding Medicaid Buy-in: A Tool to Advance Employment for People with Disabilities
The Administration for Community Living, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), and the Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) are releasing a new "question and answer" document to help grantees, stakeholders, and self-advocates better understand the "Medicaid buy-in" program.
The Retirement Crisis, by the Numbers
These days, overwhelming student loan debt and the uncertain future of Social Security's solvency garner most of the attention, but there's another equally severe financial crisis looming on the horizon for millions of Americans.
Source/more: USA Today
Americans' Reliance on Social Security Is Near a Record High, Survey Shows
Over its nearly 84 years of existence, more than 79 of which have included payouts to retired workers, Social Security has kept countless seniors, disabled workers, and survivors of deceased workers above the federal poverty level.
Source/more: USA Today
Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Inspector General Finds Serious Flaws in 20 Percent of U.S. Hospice Programs
Summary: Hospice care can provide great comfort to beneficiaries and their families and caregivers at the end of a beneficiary's life. Hospice use has grown steadily over the past decade, with Medicare paying $16.7 billion for this care in 2016. It is an increasingly important benefit for the Medicare population; 1.4 million beneficiaries received hospice care in 2016. However, OIG has identified vulnerabilities in the program.
Source/more: HHS, Office of the Inspector General
Caregiver Depression Tied to More ER Visits for Dementia Patients
Dementia patients may go to the emergency room more often when their caregivers are depressed, a recent study suggests.
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Jeff Sodoma, MPA, Esq. is a lawyer based in Virginia Beach, Virginia
Hello, there! Welcome to my blog. I will use this blog as a platform for my writing. I will write about topics in the legal world, certainly, as well as everything else under the sun, because I have many interests (and viewpoints). All views expressed in this blog, unless otherwise noted, are mine alone. One of my interests is music--my wife believes that I should go on "Beat Shazam" because I know so many songs--and I will be, from time to time, analyzing song lyrics and how they relate to the legal world.