Contents of Aerosol Cans can be Flammable!

During a recent vehicle fire investigation, it was discovered that the owner had been carrying at least eight aerosol cans of different products during the hottest month of the year so far.  The fire resulted in the destruction of a Toyota Highlander that was only months old.  This is a perfect example that illustrates the fact that people will forget that the contents are flammable and that the potential for explosion and fire is very real.  In this particular case, some of the contents of these cans were identified as Raid Multi 7 Insect Spray, Bayer Advanced Home Insect Spray and Aqua Net Hair Spray.  The cans that were recovered are shown in the photograph below.  It was also determined that at least one of the cans exploded prior to the fire.  It is imperative to remember that when products in aerosol cans are purchased, they should be stored in a cool and dry place, not left in a hot vehicle.  Not all aerosol cans contain flammable ingredients but, if you are not going to read the label, then treat them as flammable and store them accordingly.

 

 

 

 

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So You Want to be Connected….

In today’s world, one of the main buzzwords is “smart”.  This word usually refers to a device that has the intelligence to identify your next request and act to provide the information almost instantaneously.  In order to do so, the device has to be connected to the internet.  Right now, “smart” devices are limited mainly to cell phones and computers.  I just watched a webinar that talked about the “home ecosystem” needed to form a “smart home”.  However, almost nothing was said about security.  Imagine connecting your kitchen appliances to the internet.  From any remote location, you could start a load of laundry, do a load of dishes, or cook dinner and have it ready by the time you get home.  Similarly, you could adjust the temperature of your thermostat so that your home will be cooled or heated when your family gets home.  It all sounds great. But, there is a downside.  No matter how far technology advances and no matter how secure networks become, hackers (as they are known today) will ALWAYS be around to try and break the system.  As long as people are connected, hackers will try to steal information.  With that information, imagine someone taking control of your home, whether it’s listening in, watching you, or controlling your devices.  It’s up to you to decide whether you want such devices in your home.  If you don’t mind somebody spying on you, that’s fine.  Remember, those ads that pop up on your phone or computer just when you happen to be thinking of buying the same item, didn’t just pop up by coincidence.  They popped up because someone has captured information about something that interests you.

How Can I Help?

A lot of material has been posted on this website in the time that it has been in existence.  Some of that material has elicited comments and questions.  I would like to reiterate that I’m here for just that purpose.  I know that some of you that read this blog have questions about how to handle an incident that has affected you or someone you know.  Many of you have never been through a property claims process and don’t know what to expect.  Times are changing and it’s not like the old days when an adjuster came to your home or business.  Although some companies have not completely automated yet, many have incorporated electronic adjusting.  That is, you send your carrier pictures or other proof of your loss and they will determine how to settle the claim.  In other cases, drones are used to survey vehicular or structural damage.  Some things haven’t changed, like fires, water losses, and automobile accidents.  Property damage and personal injury are still going to occur.  And some of those things are going to be caused by defective products.  That’s where I come in.  If you have any questions about claims, defective products, investigations or engineering in general, please let know.  You can contact me via the comment section on this website or email me directly at rjhill@rjhill.com.

 

State Farm Accused of Influence Pedaling

On May 25, the Huntington News reported that State Farm Insurance Company had attempted to influence the Illinois Supreme Court.  State Farm spent $4 million to get a judge elected so it could evade paying $1.05 billion to 4.7 million policyholders.  State Farm had authorized the repair of vehicles using non-factory authorized and non-original equipment manufacturer parts which resulted in a class action lawsuit.  However, it an attempt to evade paying the judgment, State Farm formed an elaborate network of contributors and funneled the $4 million to a judge’s campaign which was in violation of RICO statutes.  State Farm’s trial is scheduled for September 18th, later this year.  The full text of the Huntington News article can be found at http://www.huntingtonnews.net/157148.  The article also points out that State Farm failed to compensate policyholders in 48 states (except Arkansas and Tennessee) for “breach of contract” in using substandard parts.  This means that policyholders all over the country are affected, not just residents of Illinois.  Policyholders are encouraged to visit http://www.halevstatefarmclassaction.com/home/documents and review the documents.  Because of this situation, policyholders are supposed to receive a notice by postcard of the trial.  This is the policyholder’s notice of the possibility to recover damages if their vehicle was repaired with non-approved parts.  A copy of the postcard is part of the documentation contained in the Hale v State Farm website.

Fiat Chrysler Recalls 4.8 Million Vehicles

Fiat Chrysler has recalled approximately 4,800,000 vehicles because of a problem with the cruise control.  If the control short circuits, the driver might not be able to deactivate the control in order to reduce speed.  Use of the malfunctioning cruise control increases the driver’s risk of a crash.   The following vehicles are involved in this recall: 2014-2018 Chrysler 300 sedans, Dodge Charger sedans, Journey and Durango SUVs, Ram 2500 and 3500 trucks, Ram 3500 trucks (greater than 10,000 pounds), 4500 and 5500 cab-chassis trucks, Jeep Cherokee and Grand Cherokee SUVs; 2014-2019 Ram 1500 trucks, 2015-2018 Dodge Challenger sedans, 2015-2017 Chrysler 200 sedans, 2016-2018 Ram 3500 (less than 10,000 pounds) cab-chassis trucks, 2017-2018 Chrysler Pacifica minivans, and 2018 Jeep Wrangler SUVs.  The recall applies to those vehicles with automatic transmissions and gasoline engines.  Fiat Chrysler is advising drivers to stop using the cruise control.  If the driver cannot disengage the cruise control once engaged, the driver should press firmly on the brake pedal and shift the transmission lever from drive to neutral.  Let the vehicle coast to a stop while steering safely to the side of the road and then placing the shift lever in park once the vehicle has come to a complete stop.  Owner notification will begin on or about July 6, 2018.  Owners should then take their vehicles to their local dealer for a free repair.  For additional information, owners can contact Fiat Chrysler by calling 1-800-853-1403.

Death by Driverless Car

A number of news outlets are already reporting the first pedestrian death that occurred when an autonomous vehicle struck and killed a woman in Tempe Arizona.  According to the news reports, the vehicle was operated by Uber with a human driver for safety.  The woman was crossing a street, at a point other than a crosswalk, with her bicycle.  It should be pointed out that, jaywalking is not recommended nor is it legal in most municipalities.   The vehicle, a Volvo XC90, failed to detect her presence, struck and killed her.  First and foremost, this is a prime example of the fact that we as a society are a long way from having autonomous vehicles take us where we want to go.  Second, there was a human being in the vehicle when the accident occurred, supposedly for safety purposes.  So, why didn’t he take the wheel and try to avoid hitting the woman?  Did the event present itself so suddenly that there wasn’t time for him to react?  Or was he so surprised by the woman’s appearance that he was stunned and couldn’t move?  It is possible that the woman walked into traffic in front of the Volvo with no thought about what she doing.  In that case, she was most likely at fault.  However, we are constantly being told that autonomous vehicles will be much safer and that the accident rate will go down when these vehicles are in common use.  But, what about when the car’s computer has to make an ethical decision?  What does the vehicle do when it has to decide whether to kill a pedestrian or crash into another vehicle and risk killing some or all of its occupants?  Speaking from a forensic standpoint, remember, the movements of the vehicle will be preprogrammed at the manufacturer’s factory based on various scenarios that drivers face everyday.  Are you ready to forfeit your life on the basis of what some programmer thinks is the right thing to do?

Ford Recalls Fusion and Lincoln MKZ Vehicles

The Ford Motor Company has announced that it is recalling approximately 1.3 million Fusion and Lincoln MKZ vehicles for a steering wheel problem.  Specifically, the steering wheel in these vehicles is loosening and could possibly detach from the steering column.  This recall applies to

2014 – 2017 Fusion vehicles built at the Flat Rock plant between August 6, 2013 and February 29, 2016;

2014 – 2018 Fusion vehicles built at the Hermosillo Mexico plant between July 25, 2013 and March 5, 2018; and

2014 – 2018 Lincoln MKZ vehicles built at the Hermosillo Mexico plant between July 25, 2013 and March5, 2018.

Dealers will replace the steering bolt at no cost to customers.  For additional information, customers can contact Ford by calling 1-800-392-3673 or on-line by visiting www.ford.com and searching recalls.  You have your vehicle identification number to do a search.

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