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The 5 things you need to do after an accident

Accidents happen in the blink of an eye. Whether you are in a car accident, you slipped and fell, you were hit by a car while walking or a defective product caused a serious injury, you often deal with the same questions. How badly am I hurt? Will I have to miss work? How much will this cost? Whether you live in Indiana, Kentucky or anywhere in the country, there are several important steps that you must take after an accident to protect your rights and options. If you want to seek compensation for your injuries, avoiding mistakes early on is essential. Then, you can let your attorney worry about the complex legal work. 1. Call The Police After any type of motor vehicle accident, animal attack or any type of serious accident, it is important to have a documented account of the incident. Giving a statement to the police will provide important, official documentation. Think about all the times you have heard about someone immediately apologizing after causing a car accident, only to change his or her tune when faced with skyrocketing insurance costs. Having a police report in place will provide transparency if someone tries to change his or her story. 2. Seek Medical Attention There are two reasons why it is so important that you get the care you need after an accident. First, your long-term health may depend on it. What you think may be a minor case of whiplash could keep you from being able to get out of bed weeks later. A hairline fracture could get worse over time. An untreated concussion could lead to serious, long-term health effects. Second, any treatment you receive will provide crucial evidence for proving the worth of your personal injury claim. If you do not see a doctor and document your injuries, it will be easier for the defense to refute your claims. That is why you should also follow all of your doctor’s treatment recommendations. 3. Talk To A Lawyer It is difficult to recover the compensation you need on your own. Insurance companies count on being able to take advantage of you. Having an experienced personal injury lawyer on your side will help you protect your rights and your options. Your attorney can help you determine how much your claim is worth and whether it is wise to accept a settlement or take your case to trial. It is important that you have an attorney in your corner who will fight to maximize your compensation and get you the respect you deserve. 4. Document Any Damage If Possible Car accidents, slips and falls and other accidents often leave behind crucial evidence. But that evidence can be cleaned up. If you are able, take pictures with the camera on your phone to document as much evidence as possible. This includes skid marks, damage to vehicles and any safety hazards. If there are any witnesses, try to get their names. Your attorney will then get to work preserving evidence and working with professionals to reconstruct and investigate the accident. 5. Don’t Talk To The Insurance Companies Insurance companies make a profit by limiting the amount of money they pay on claims. They are skilled at getting the information they need from clients and victims to prove that they do not owe anything. Let your attorney handle all of the interactions with insurance adjusters, and do not agree to release any medical records unless you have already talked to your lawyer.

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Summer Vacation Safety is a High Priority

Summer Vacation is finally here! School is out, the days are long and sunny, and we are all on a different schedule than the one we keep the other nine months of the year. Summertime is prime time for travel for a lot of families, and even though you might be out of your usual routine for the summer, don’t let summer vacation safety and security slip by the wayside. Travel can be fun and educational, but it can also be dangerous. Up to 25,000 people are killed every year due to traffic accidents that occur during a vacation. Other mishaps that can occur include food poisoning, maritime accidents, and drowning. If you let your guard down, even for a moment, while you’re in an unfamiliar setting, you may find yourself with a lot less fun on vacation than you imagined. To help you to protect yourself from common issues while you’re on vacation, Gerling Law offers these Safe Vacationing Tips: Before You Go Arrange for a house sitter or ask a trusted friend or neighbor to check on your home while you are away; provide your contact information in the event of an emergency Stop your newspaper delivery for the duration of your trip Stop mail delivery or ask someone to pick up your mail each day Lock up any firearms in a safe designed for such use Consider placing valuables in a safe or safe deposit box at the bank Clean out your wallet and/or purse; travel only with essential credit cards and cash Pack light; thieves often target individuals struggling with heavy baggage Leave a copy of your itinerary with a trusted individual, complete with contact information At the Airport Never leave your suitcase unattended Pack your carry-on with essentials such as medication and valuables like jewelry or electronics Obey airline rules and regulations regarding carry-ons and checked luggage If you are traveling internationally, keep your passport with you at all times In Your Rental Car Thoroughly inspect your rental car before you leave the rental lot, including checking the tires Don’t leave valuables in plain sight; this includes cables and chargers Always lock the vehicle; keep windows rolled up when leaving the vehicle Wear your seat belt If you must keep your luggage with you in the car, lock it in the trunk out of sight Lock the doors while driving; keep windows rolled up and use the air conditioner Rethink the convertible; thieves can easily grab purses, backpacks, and other items right out of the vehicle when you’re sitting at a red light Stick to well-lit and well-traveled streets and neighborhoods Park in well-lit and well-traveled areas At the Hotel Keep your luggage between you and the front desk when checking in Instruct the front desk to not give out your name or room number; ask them not to divulge the number out loud when assigning your room Request a room between the third and sixth floors; these are reachable by most fire engine ladders but not by thieves seeking to access your room from outside Identify the exits and fire extinguishers nearest to your room Do not open your hotel room door to anyone unknown to you, even if they say they are hotel staff; verify their identity with the front desk Always lock your door and take your room key with you; do not prop the door open even if you’re just going down the hall for ice Meet visitors and guests in the hotel lobby, not in your room Avoid getting on the elevator with individuals who look suspicious Keep your room key out of sight when at the hotel pool Use the hotel safe to store valuables; do not leave valuables like electronics or jewelry out in plain sight in your room By the Water Learn to swim Only swim in designated areas Do not swim in areas unprotected by a lifeguard Learn proper boating etiquette Protect your skin with sunscreen While You’re Out and About Be aware of your surroundings at all times Only carry what you need with you; keep excess cash or credit cards stored safely at the hotel Do not accept rides from strangers Stay in well-traveled and well-lit areas; wandering away from established tourist areas could expose you to crime Locate the nearest police station and hospital in case you need a safe place Limit your alcohol consumption Avoid large crowds, protests, and demonstrations Keep your purse close to your body or your wallet in an inside front pocket It doesn’t matter if you’re traveling near or far this summer, protecting yourself and your belongings requires vigilance and a hefty dose of precaution. The same rules that apply during your everyday life still apply when you’re on vacation. If you or a loved one have been injured due to someone’s negligence while you were on vacation, you may benefit from speaking with an attorney with experience in personal injury, premises liability, or negligent security. Your attorney will examine the facts of your case and help you to determine if you need assistance in preserving your legal rights.Don’t let a mishap while on vacation ruin a good time and good memories. Contact Gerling Law – Go With Experience. Go With Gerling.

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Scooter Safety and Helmet Laws

Spend any time driving the streets of Evansville and you will most likely see at least one scooter sharing the road with you. Common and popular in cities around the country (and world), scooters are an inexpensive alternative form of transportation – small, light, and economical. For individuals who choose not to take on the expense of an automobile, with maintenance, insurance, and fuel costs, a scooter is an appealing option. But the differences between scooters and automobiles are the main reason that scooter riders must exercise caution when sharing the road. A scooter does not have the advantages of a “crumple zone” or airbags or seat belts – all standard features on automobiles. Never forget that an automobile is bigger, faster, and more powerful than most scooters out on the road. Though the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) does not separate scooters from the larger and more powerful motorcycles in its fatality reports, the statistics are significant: motorcyclists accounted for 15% of all traffic fatalities in 2012, and are 26 times more likely than automobile passengers to die in a traffic crash. What is a Scooter? The United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) defines a scooter as a motorcycle that has a platform or footrest for the operator’s feet, and a step-through architecture. Typically a scooter’s engine is beneath and to the rear of the operator, and the operator is in a perpendicular position to the seat. Scooter Safety Starts With the Driver Because a scooter doesn’t have the built-in protections that an automobile has, scooter operators have a greater responsibility to travel safely.The Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) has developed a system designed to assist riders in becoming safer on the road, regardless if they’re riding a scooter or a more powerful motorcycle. MSF’s SEE system encourages motorcyclists and scooter riders to develop a heightened awareness while riding, helping them to respond to potentially dangerous situations on the road. The SEE acronym indicates the three steps of this system: Search, Evaluate, and Execute. Search – a consistent and constant scanning of the roadway and traffic Evaluate – assess conditions with an eye toward the worst case scenario Execute – take appropriate action if needed Scooter Safety Equipment Safe scootering is more than mental preparedness, however. It also takes proper protective equipment and adherence to traffic rules. This includes: Helmet – Probably the most important piece of equipment you’ll need to protect yourself on a scooter. The most devastating and difficult injury to recover from is a Traumatic Brain Injury, and a helmet can help to mitigate that risk. Do your research and purchase the right helmet for your needs. Protective gear – In addition to a helmet, you’ll want to protect the rest of your body with goggles or shatterproof sunglasses, a riding jacket, pants, and proper footwear. All of this gear will help to protect your body from a serious case of road rash (or worse) if you’re involved in an accident. Visibility – “I didn’t see him” is a common statement given to law enforcement officers investigating an accident. Making yourself visible through the use of bright colors and reflective materials helps to increase your safety on the road. Rules of the road – Even though a scooter is smaller and lighter than most other vehicles on the road, riders must abide by the same traffic rules as everyone else. This means proper use of directional signals, controlling your speed, and using road lanes as they are designed to be used. You’ll see many scooter riders in Evansville flaunting many of these guidelines, but understand that they are doing it at their own risk. An unprotected rider who doesn’t make himself visible to other vehicles is often the one who doesn’t walk away from an accident. Scooter Laws in Indiana If you ride a scooter in Evansville, you might be aware that the laws for scooter riders have changed recently. House Bill 1343, also known as “The Scooter Bill” took effect January 1, 2015 and provides local law enforcement as well as the driving public a set of rules for the operation of scooters on public roads. Under the law, all scooter operators must register their vehicle with the BMV and purchase a license plate, regardless of engine size. However, there are some differences in operator and insurance requirements based on engine size: Scooters with an engine size of over 50cc are considered “Class A” vehicles Must purchase license plate Must have valid driver’s license with a motor-driven cycle endorsement Must have insurance Can have passengers Riders under age 18 must have protective headgear and goggles Scooters with an engine size less than 50cc are considered “Class B” vehicles Must purchase license plate Must be at least 15 years of age and possess a valid Indiana ID Pass a written test at the BMV for a motor driven cycle endorsement No insurance requirement Can NOT have passengers Riders under age 18 must have protective headgear and goggles Reactions to this new law by the driving public were mixed, but the Evansville Police Department supported this legislation, primarily because of the licensing requirement. Police can track a registered scooter more easily when it is stolen if it has a license. This caused a nearly 300% drop in scooter thefts between 2014 and 2015. Still, regardless whether you’re driving a Class A or Class B scooter, your first priority should be safe operation. Remember, you are the one most responsible for your own safety on a scooter. If you or a loved one have been injured in a scooter accident, you may benefit from talking with an attorney experienced in accidents involving motorcycles. Your attorney will examine the facts of the situation and help you to determine what steps you should take to preserve your legal rights. Contact Gerling Law for more information – it won’t cost you anything to see if we can help!

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Swimming Pool Water Quality, Health, and Safety

It’s bad enough to be sick in the winter when the weather is uncooperative, but to be ill in the summertime when you really want to be out enjoying the sunshine seems especially unfair. Yes, illness can strike at any time, and sometimes its source is the thing you least expect. After a day of fun out by the pool, enjoying the sunshine and eating delicious (and maybe not-so-healthy) poolside snacks, you might find yourself with a version of what is usually called “stomach flu” – although it’s not the flu. The fever, nausea, and intestinal distress many times is attributed to food poisoning (from that lukewarm hotdog you ate, maybe?) but it may very likely be a Recreational Water Illness (RWI). What are Recreational Water Illnesses? If you fall ill a day or two after an outing to the pool or water park, it might be because you’ve picked up a bacteria or parasite from the water. While you might expect ocean, lake, or river water to harbor some unsavory organisms, that cool, crystal clear water at the local public pool could be concealing some nasties that are just as bad. The illnesses that sometimes spring up around water fun are the result of contact with water contaminated by bacteria or parasites, which can cause infection in the eyes or ears or upset your intestinal tract. You can contract these RWIs by ingesting contaminated water or exposing an open wound to water containing these organisms. Most people with healthy immune systems recover from such an illness within a week or two, but if you have a compromised immune system the complications can be serious. Water Quality in Public Pools Don’t let clear blue water in a pool or water park fool you! The CDC recently released a report on the water quality at public facilities across the nation, and the results are unsettling. An astounding 80% of all public aquatic venues nationwide tested positive for dirty water. Top contaminants on the list were E. coli, cryptosporidium, norovirus, and Shigella. And what’s worse, the usual chemical treatments don’t kill many of these bacteria and organisms. If the water quality of a pool is bad enough to warrant a closure, it will take extensive work by facility managers to treat the water and filtration system. How to Protect Yourself “Shower before entering the water” – it seems like a funny rule to have at a pool, where you’re going to get wet anyway, but this precaution is designed to limit contamination of the water. Because some organisms are resistant to chemical treatments – Cryptosporidium can live in chlorinated water for several days – the best defense against dirty pool water is to keep germs out in the first place. The majority of organisms found in public pool facilities are present on the skin, either from children still learning toileting skills or from others recovering from a bout of intestinal distress, and showering helps to rinse them from skin. Other precautions to take: pH test strips – You can purchase these at any pool store, and a quick dip in the water will tell you what the pH levels are; the proper pH for pool chemicals to do their job is 7.4-7.6. Do not swallow water – This might seem like an obvious precaution, but many illnesses begin by ingesting just a small amount of contaminated water No open wounds – If you’ve got an open wound or stitches but the skin has not healed, germs can enter this wound and produce an infection Bathroom breaks – Take children out of the pool for a bathroom break at least once an hour Wash your hands – Always wash your hands after a bathroom break, and supervise young children in washing their hands Diaper changes – Regular diapers and swim diapers should be changed in the facility restroom, not poolside Stay home – If you’ve got an intestinal illness or have recently recovered from one, stay away from the pool for a week or two Observe staffing – Pool managers and lifeguards are often tasked with checking water quality throughout the day; be aware of how often water is tested while you are onsite. Safety in the water isn’t only about water quality, however. Even if you frequent a pool or water park that’s consistently contaminant-free, you still need to be concerned about your safety in the water. The best way to assure that is to learn to swim. Nearly half of American adults cannot pass a basic swimming test, although most will say they know how to swim. If it’s been a while since you’ve put your swimming skills to the test, you might want to check into a refresher – many local pools and organizations such as the YMCA offer swimming lessons. We’ve got a long, hot summer ahead of us here in the Tri-State area, and that means a lot of water fun. Don’t let your day at the pool or water park turn into something that’s not-so-fun – learn how to protect yourself and your loved ones from illness and injury in the water!

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Premises security at sporting events

Little League and Soccer Teams are Filling Up Now that spring and summer sports are in full swing, many of us will be spending a great deal of time at the sports park – playing, coaching, or cheering our favorite player. For some, the ballfield becomes a second home, where it seems they spend most of their free time. If you’ve got a little leaguer or soccer star, you know the sports park like the back of your hand – where the shady spots are, how much the food costs at the concession stand, and the best parking spot – but you may not give a second thought to the safety and security of the property. Baseball Field Safety and Responsibility Often you don’t hear about problems at the sports park unless it’s something that attracts the attention of the news – a baseball coach or spectator hit by an errant ball … a small child disappearing … a bench-clearing brawl. Most days it’s just business as usual, and everyone goes home healthy and happy. It’s easy to forget that the owner of that property has a responsibility to provide a reasonable level of safety for patrons while they are on the property. As an attendee at a sports park, you have a right to expect: Adequate lighting Properly maintained grounds Adequate security Appropriate crowd management structures, including established walkways and fencing or other barriers Appropriate staffing for the venue during an event Adequate restroom facilities Proper signage indicating entrances/exits as well as directional signage for facilities Handicap-accessible areas such as entrances and restrooms Appropriate contingency planning for emergencies A way to communicate to the crowd in the event of an emergency (i.e., PA system) Assumption of Risk and Limits to Liability It’s almost a cliché when a car window gets broken by a foul ball, but what is the responsibility of the sports park property owner in such an instance? It’s almost a cliché when a car window gets broken by a foul ball, but what is the responsibility of the sports park property owner in such an instance? Even though local laws may require a property owner to provide such things as basic security and safety at an outdoor venue such as a sports park, there is a certain amount of responsibility for personal property that belongs to the individual. Damage to a car hit by a foul ball is the responsibility of the car’s owner, who chose to park in a particular spot. A spectator hit with a foul ball is a different circumstance, depending on where the spectator was seated during the game. Seats located behind home plate are generally protected with netting or fencing; those choosing to sit in an unprotected area are understood to be under an assumption of risk, which limits the liability of the property owner for injuries. Proving Negligence If you or a loved one are injured while attending a game or visiting a sports venue, you may have some legal recourse – provided you can prove negligence on the behalf of the property owner and/or organization or team involved. Proof of negligence has four distinct elements: Duty to public – Proving that a property owner or other responsible party had a duty to the public to provide a safe environment and reasonable security for the event, and that they were negligent in doing so. Breach of duty – When the responsible party fails to uphold that duty – for instance, by not properly maintaining their facility – it can be said that they have breached their duty. Cause of injury – Following the establishment of duty and the determination that there was failure to uphold that duty, it must be established that this breach was the cause of your injury. Injury caused by breach – If you suffered an injury or damage as a result of the breach of duty, and this injury is compensable with monetary damages, you must be able to prove that this injury was a result of negligence. While there are no universal requirements for venues such as sports parks, federal, state, and local laws outline the requirements for premises security for many types of public facilities. Property owners have a responsibility to provide a safe and secure environment for people on their premises, and if you experience personal property damage or personal injury while at a sports facility, you need to know what your legal rights are. An attorney with experience in premises liability cases can examine the facts of your case and determine if you have legal recourse. Don’t let a foul ball or a damaged car ruin your enjoyment of the ball park – contact Gerling Law today!

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Bike Helmets and Safety

Bicycle Helmets Provide Safety in Close Calls Imagine you’re enjoying a leisurely bike ride one afternoon, when a pickup truck passes so closely by you that its mirror strikes your upper arm. The impact causes you to wobble but isn’t strong enough to knock you off your bike, and the truck drives away. Though you’re left with a nasty bruise, you’re otherwise unhurt. Aside from the disturbing fact that someone could strike a cyclist with their vehicle and then drive away, a close call like this underscores the need for a bike helmet. Even though a cyclist takes every precaution to ride safely, incidents like this can and do happen, resulting in varying degrees of injury. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), nearly 50,000 cyclists are injured in traffic crashes each year. Two percent of all motor vehicle traffic fatalities are cyclists. If you’re new to cycling or are in the habit of riding without a helmet, these statistics might alarm you; however, if you follow some basic safety guidelines and use the right protective equipment (such as a helmet), you can reduce your chances of becoming a statistic. Health Benefits of Cycling Anyone who cycles regularly can tell you that cycling is great exercise. As an aerobic activity, cycling increases your heart activity, boosts your circulation, and gives your lungs a good workout. It’s also low-impact, which is easier on your joints than many other forms of exercise. You breathe more deeply, work up a good sweat, and increase your body temperature, all of which serve to improve your overall fitness level. People who cycle regularly also enjoy: Improved cardiovascular fitness Improved muscle strength and flexibility Improved joint mobility Improved posture and coordination Stronger bones Lower levels of body fat Increased ability to ward off illness and/or manage disease Increased mental acuity Reduced stress, anxiety, and depression Bicyclists and Head Injuries Even with all the health benefits of cycling, there can be a dangerous side – the risks you take when you take to the roads on two wheels. Cyclists must take additional precautions when they hit the road, since they’re sharing the pavement with vehicles that are much heavier, larger, and quicker than themselves. Drivers don’t always pay proper attention to cyclists on the road, and put riders in peril by not giving them the same courtesy that other vehicles receive. In fact, in 2014, more than a half million people were sent to the emergency room for injuries suffered on a bicycle – a number second only to injuries from basketball, and far ahead of injuries from playing football. While road rash, broken bones, gashes, and facial injuries are common, the most common injury suffered in a cycling accident is brain injury. In a majority of cycling crashes, the cyclist is catapulted over the handlebars with little control over the way he or she lands. Such a crash can have devastating results, particularly if your head is unprotected. There are varying degrees of brain injury, from a mild concussion to a life-altering TBI, and one of the best ways to prevent or lessen the severity of such an injury is through the use of a helmet. Bicycle helmets have been shown to reduce the risk of head injury by 60% and the risk of brain injury by 58%. Fitting a Bike Helmet Not all bike helmets are created equal, however. Don’t let the price be the main factor in your decision – more expensive isn’t always better, and vice versa. The best helmet for you is one that fits properly, provides the necessary cushioning, and is comfortable enough that you will wear it every time you get on a bike. To select the right helmet for your needs, follow these steps: Measure your head. Use a flexible fabric tape measure to measure the circumference of your head at its largest part, typically about one inch above your eyebrows. Select a helmet size based on this measurement. Position your helmet. The helmet should sit level on your head (not tilted back or forward), approximately one to two finger widths above your eyebrows. Adjust the side straps. These straps should form a “V” under and slightly in front of your ears. Position the chin buckle. The buckle for the chin strap should rest underneath, in the center of your chin. Adjust the chin strap. The chin strap should be snug against your chin, with only enough room to insert one or two fingers between the strap and your chin. Check the final fitting. Open your mouth wide, as in a yawn; the helmet should pull down on your head with this motion. Test the fit of the helmet by trying to rock it back and forth on your head. If the helmet moves more than one inch forward or backward on your head, readjust the straps. Once you have determined that the helmet is properly fitted to your head, lock the straps with the mechanisms provided to prevent slippage. Bicycle helmets in the U.S. must meet the standards set forth by the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC). Before you purchase a helmet, make sure it has a certification label inside identifying it as certified for use as a bike helmet. May is National Bike Month, and a great time to get out on the road with your bike. By following the rules of the road, riding safely, and using the right protective equipment, you can improve your fitness level and enjoy the great outdoors. The Tri-State is filled with scenic rides, both easy and challenging. Riding with a helmet is one way to assure you get to enjoy every mile. If you or a loved one have been injured in a cycling accident, you may want to speak with an attorney with experience in bicycle accidents in order to preserve your legal rights. Your attorney will examine the facts of your case to determine if you need legal guidance, and can navigate the legal system on...

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Exploding E-Cigs: Health Risks You Didn't Expect

Recently, an Owensboro man learned what was so hot about the e-cigarette trend. You might have seen the dramatic video on the Evansville news, or even on CNN, where the story was picked up and became national news: an e-cigarette device igniting inside the pocket of his pants, giving him second-degree burns. His story, unfortunately, isn’t rare or unusual. Electronic cigarettes, also known as e-cigarettes, or e-cigs, have been around since 2008, and are promoted as a healthier alternative to traditional tobacco products. Some e-cigarettes resemble their paper-and-tobacco counterparts, while others deliver their shot of nicotine via a device called a vape pen. These devices work by heating a liquid containing nicotine into a vapor, which users inhale. The heating element is powered by lithium-ion batteries, and while the healthfulness of electronic cigarettes is still open to debate, the batteries used within them present a very real danger. Lithium-Ion Batteries in E-Cigs The batteries used in e-cigarettes aren’t brand-new technology – lithium-ion batteries have been in use commercially since the early 1990s, and are common in many of the electronics that we use daily. Cell phones, laptops, cameras, cordless power tools, and many other electronic devices rely on the long-lasting power of lithium-ion batteries, and these batteries are safe for use provided they are properly cared for. Lithium-ion batteries charge more quickly and do not develop a discharge memory like Nickel-Cadmium (NiCad) batteries, making them popular for devices that need a consistent and enduring power supply. Batteries generate their power through an electrochemical reaction, and it is this reaction that can render a lithium-ion battery unstable if it does not receive proper care. Vape Pen Design Flaws, Shoddy Construction Why do the batteries in electronic cigarettes seem to explode more often than those found in cell phones or laptops? Part of the answer lies in the design of many devices; their cylindrical shape can help to focus the energy of a failing battery, creating pressure that builds quickly and ruptures the device, typically at the end. Another part of the answer comes in the manufacturing of the batteries themselves. While the batteries used in electronic cigarettes are a common size and type manufactured by numerous companies around the world, there is a difference in how some of these batteries are made.There are three devices that can be built into a battery at time of manufacture which serve to protect it from failure: automatic reset of a battery if it overheats, disruption of current if it is over-charged, or a printed circuit board that prevents over-discharge, over-current, or over-charging. Batteries made with all three of these devices are known as “protected,” while anything less is considered “unprotected.” Most batteries used in e-cigarettes are unprotected – missing critical fail-safes, and running afoul of the voluntary industry standards of UL 1642 and IEC 62133. Protecting Yourself from Exploding E-Cigs If you choose to use e-cigarettes over traditional tobacco, you may be trading one set of health hazards for another. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has up to this point not regulated the e-cigarette industry to the extent that they oversee the tobacco industry, but changes may be on the way. In the meantime, you will want to protect yourself from the possibility of an exploding device. Precautions you should take include: Always use the charger specifically designed for your device Never leave a charging battery unattended Remove your device from the charger as soon as it has completed charging Don’t let loose batteries come in contact with metal (such as coins) or with each other Use the proper size battery for your device Don’t expose your battery to heat Additionally, the US Department of Transportation recently issued a flight safety rule regarding electronic cigarettes. As of October 2015, passengers on commercial airline flights can no longer pack e-cigarette devices into their checked luggage and are prohibited from charging these devices or their batteries in flight. Passengers may bring their devices into the cabin area on their person or in their carry-on luggage, but cannot use the devices in flight, a rule that is in line with traditional tobacco. This rule stems directly from the fire hazard created by lithium-ion batteries in electronic cigarette devices. Many people choose the electronic cigarette route as a way to quit smoking, only to find that the devices themselves can be hazardous to their health. If you or a loved one have been injured by a defective e-cigarette device, you may benefit from speaking with an attorney to determine your legal rights. An attorney experienced in products liability cases can examine the facts of your case and help you to preserve your legal rights. For help in quitting smoking, visit Smokefree.gov or contact the CDC at 1-800-QUIT-NOW.

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Pavement Dropoffs and Driver's Safety

Every year, thousands of people are injured, disabled, or killed in auto accidents due to unsafe road conditions. We all know the dangers associated with wet or icy pavement, but sometimes accidents happen on a clear, dry day for a surprising reason: the design of the road itself. If you’ve ever dropped off the edge of the road, you’re familiar with the jolt of adrenaline that shocks you into reacting, jerking your steering wheel and your vehicle back onto the road. For some of us, it’s a quick correction that we can shrug off; for others, it’s a reaction that causes us to overcorrect and lose control. Of the more than 40,000 vehicle accidents that occur every year, 4.5% of them involve oversteering or overcorrecting – some with tragic results. Roadway design and public safety Most of us don’t give much thought to how roadways are constructed, just as long as we can travel from Point A to Point B with relative ease. But it is the responsibility of highway departments and paving contractors to build roads that are safe to navigate, and nowhere is this more important than the area of pavement at the edge, often called the shoulder. The minimum shoulder width for travel lanes is dependent upon the type of roadway and whether it’s located in an urban or rural setting. But whether it’s a 1-foot shoulder along an urban ramp or a 12-foot shoulder adjacent to a freeway traveling through a rural area, the transition from the driving surface to the shoulder area is of critical importance. Conventional paving methods often result in a road edge that is several inches higher than the adjacent shoulder area and in many cases perpendicular to the shoulder surface. Vehicles that drop off this steep edge are subject to a phenomenon known as “tire scrubbing,” where the inside wall of the right tire rubs along the edge of the pavement. Many times, drivers will oversteer in an attempt to return to the roadway, while maintaining their traveling speed. The combination of these two factors can cause the driver to lose control of the vehicle, veering into oncoming traffic or running off the opposite side of the roadway and overturning or striking a fixed object. Roadway departure is a factor in more than half of all fatal crashes (download report pdf), particularly where a vertical shoulder drop-off is involved. However, The Federal Highway Administration has developed an effective solution for steep shoulder drop-offs called the Safety Edge (interesting brochure for highway workers about the safety edge). The principle behind the Safety Edge is a sloping surface that eases the transition between the roadway and the shoulder. A simple device (called a shoe) attached to a paving machine extrudes and shapes the pavement edge to a precise 30 degree angle, which eases the transition between the driving surface and the shoulders. Vehicles that encounter a 30 degree slope at the pavement edge are less likely to experience tire scrubbing and their drivers can correct their path back onto the roadway with less chance of oversteering. How to React if Your Vehicle Encounters a Drop-off Most driver’s education courses and state driver’s manuals offer instruction and advice on how to avoid common road hazards, including how to react to dropping off the shoulder of the road. It is possible to correct a shoulder drop-off without oversteering by following these steps: Let up on the gas, and don’t slam on your brakes. Maintain a firm grip on the steering wheel; a sudden drop-off may cause the wheel to jerk in your hands, but resist the urge to jerk the wheel back toward the roadway. Apply the brakes lightly and briefly; the goal here is to gradually slow the vehicle. Keep steering the vehicle in a straight line and straddle the pavement edge in order to avoid tire scrubbing. Check for oncoming traffic. Once any oncoming vehicles are out of your vicinity, you can attempt a return onto the pavement at a slower speed. Turn your steering wheel one-quarter turn toward the pavement as you attempt to remount the pavement from the drop-off. Unsafe Pavement Edge Drop-offs There are over two million miles of paved roads in the U.S., all under varied administration at local, state, and federal levels.The state of Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) requires certain types of road construction to include safety edges and in their book of standards lists approved devices capable of producing these edges. Unfortunately, there are thousands of miles of roadway nationwide that don’t have this 30 degree slope at their edge, creating an unsafe situation for vehicles that drop off the shoulder. It will likely be many years before all driving surfaces conform to this guideline, as many road departments will only implement it as they repair and resurface roads. This leaves an unsafe pavement edge on many of the roadways we travel each day. If you or a loved one have been injured in a roadway departure incident, the pavement edge may be an aspect worth examining. An experienced attorney can delve into such details and help you to determine if your legal rights need protection in such a case.

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| Read Time: 4 minutes | news

Hotel Room Safety

The recent court case involving sportscaster and TV personality Erin Andrews served to expose some of the dangers of travel and hotel security that most of us don’t consider. If you’ve ever lost a hotel room key card and had to go to the front desk to get a new one made, you might have been asked to show some ID before receiving a new one. As inconvenient as that may be, there is a good reason for it: there is a substantial burden on hotels and their staff to provide security and privacy for their guests. In 2008, Andrews checked into a hotel in Nashville, Tennessee, near Vanderbilt University, in preparation for her job reporting on a Vanderbilt football game for ESPN. Unbeknownst to Andrews, a stalker had managed to check into the same hotel, learn her room number, and request a room next door to hers. The stalker altered the peephole of Andrews’ door and recorded several minutes of footage of the sportscaster inside her hotel room. The resulting video footage of Andrews, nude, found its way onto the Internet and touched off a storm of controversy regarding hotel safety and the responsibility of hoteliers to their guests. Negligent Security Guest safety and security has long been an issue in the hotel industry. Most hotel chains have stringent standards in place to protect the privacy and security of their guests – just think of the process you must undergo to receive a replacement key card or contact another guest in the same building. Properly trained staff will not divulge room numbers or provide a replacement key card without proper identification. However, even properly trained staff can make mistakes, exposing a hotel guest to danger. Just how easy is it for someone to learn your hotel room number or request a room near yours, without your consent? The Today Show’s Jeff Rossen put that question to the test and discovered that in many cases, it’s all too easy. While the term negligent security is generally understood to encompass such issues as the physical security of a property, negligence can be claimed in such a case, as well. By departing from hotel safety guidelines and providing information about you without your consent, the hotel has made you more vulnerable to potential crime. Tips to Protect Yourself Checking into a hotel is something that most of us do without much thought for our personal safety, particularly if it’s a more upscale establishment. But there are things you should consider when checking in, regardless of how nice the hotel is; hotel crimes are often crimes of opportunity, and you never know who may be watching you or listening to your conversations with the intent of harm. Ask the front desk personnel not to announce your room number, but instead write it down. If they verbally tell you your room number, ask for a different room and request that number to not be announced. Keep your luggage between you and the front desk when checking in. Do not leave your credit card lying on the front desk counter, and double-check that the card being returned to you by the clerk is indeed your card. When registering, sign with only your first initial and last name – for women traveling alone, this does not indicate gender. Instruct the front desk not to give out your name or your room number, and request them to call you if anyone inquires about you. When checking in, grab a couple of business cards from the front desk; keep one near the room phone and one with you. If you need the address of the hotel for contacting emergency services or for a cab ride, you will have it handy. Ask for a room between the 3rd and 6th floors. Ground floor and second floor rooms are more accessible to would-be criminals, and rooms higher than the 6th floor may be out of reach of fire truck ladders. Upon entering your room, examine such things as window locks, door deadbolts, and peepholes. Check closets and bathroom to see if anyone may be hiding inside. Never prop your door open, even for a moment; do not use the deadbolt as a door stop. If someone knocks on your door, confirm their identity through the peephole before opening the door; if they state they are hotel staff, contact the front desk to ask if someone has been sent to your room, and for what purpose. If you receive a phone call in your room from someone stating to be with hotel staff and requesting entry into your room to make a repair, contact the front desk to confirm. Ultimately, the $55 million that Andrews was awarded is less about the money – indeed, Andrews may never see payment of the full amount – than it is about the efforts that hotels must make to protect their guests. Because human error is a factor in such circumstances, hotel guests must take precautions for their own safety. If you’ve experienced a breach in hotel security, you may benefit from speaking with an attorney experienced in negligent security cases. Your attorney can examine the facts of the situation and determine if you need assistance in preserving your legal rights.

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| Read Time: 3 minutes | news

Back Pain and Disability (SSDI) Claims

“Oh, my aching back!” If you’ve ever had a sore back brought on by overexertion, you know how debilitating it can be. For many of us, some pain relievers and a day or two of rest is enough to alleviate the pain. But for someone with chronic and disabling back pain, there is no relief – no matter how much they try to rest their back, the pain prevents them from working and providing for their family. Back pain is the most common ailment worldwide, and it’s the most common reason people here in the U.S. seek Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). The occasional sore back isn’t cause for seeking disability; individuals with chronic back pain that keeps them from working must be able to prove their injury through medical documentation. The road to being awarded disability for back pain can be a long one, and many do not qualify. Causes of back pain Back pain can come from a number of sources, and it’s a common injury for those weekend warriors among us. But it’s not just pulled muscles that cause back pain. Other causes include: Bulging or ruptured disks Muscle or ligament strain Arthritis Skeletal irregularities Osteoporosis Injuries Disease Inflammation Back Pain That Qualifies for SSDI The SSA has a well-defined list of issues involving the spine that qualify for SSDI and these must be diagnosed by your doctor in order to provide proof of your condition for your disability claim. Back pain with no known cause is not sufficient to be awarded benefits, even if the pain is so bad that you cannot work. You, with the help of your doctor, must be able to provide an identifiable cause for your back pain. A diagnosis may be obtained through the results of an MRI or x-rays, which will provide some of the information the SSA will need to make a determination. If your pain is the result of injury, an accident, or disease, this information will help strengthen your case to receive SSDI. Providing objective proof is only part of the process, however. You will also need to demonstrate that you have sought and received treatment for your pain, and are continuing to seek relief through treatment. Age As a Factor While back pain is a common ailment, individuals with chronic and debilitating back pain must provide a great deal of information to prove that their condition merits SSDI. Another factor that can work in your favor is your age. You are more likely to be awarded SSDI for back pain if you are 50 years of age or older. The SSA will examine your work history and determine if you are able to do any other type of work based on your work experience. Individuals in their 20s, 30s, and 40s may have less success in receiving SSDI benefits for back pain due to their age – the SSA takes the long view that a younger individual may be able to develop a different skillset that would allow them to seek different employment. If, however, you are in your 50s with chronic and debilitating back pain, this can be an advantage to your case. Individuals in their 50s and beyond are viewed as less likely to be able to work in a different career field based on their years of work experience. Consider someone who has worked in construction for their entire career; if they are injured on the job and their back pain keeps them from working in the construction field, it is highly unlikely they would have the skillset to change careers. Their ability to develop this skillset in order to find different employment is lessened due to their age. The Basic Criteria for All SSDI Cases Regardless of medical issues that trigger an SSDI application, the SSA has a basic set of criteria for consideration to receive SSDI: You must have a qualifying condition or combination of conditions You must be able to provide medical evidence of your condition Your condition should be limiting the number of hours you work, if you can work at all Your condition is expected to last at least one year or result in death Seeking Help If you are suffering from back pain that is keeping you from working, you will want to apply to receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). However, being awarded SSDI for back pain takes careful planning and documentation, and the SSDI application process can take up to two years before a final decision is rendered. Your application may be denied. You may not know what to do next if your application is denied. An attorney with experience in navigating the SSDI process can help you to meet each challenge along the way to a final decision.

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