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Traumatic Brain Injuries: Long Term Effects

In 2002, medical examiner Dr. Bennet Omalu performed an autopsy on Pittsburgh Steelers’ legend Mike Webster following a heart attack. But it was what he found in the NFL Hall of Famer’s brain that led to a powerful discovery: Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, or CTE. The resulting tug-of-war between Dr. Omalu’s findings and the initial reaction of the NFL’s governing body is the basis for the recently-released movie Concussion. At the heart of the movie is the discovery that brain injuries can have serious consequences, many years after presumed healing took place. However, the long-term consequences of a brain injury don’t just affect elite athletes; anyone who has had a concussion or other trauma to the brain is susceptible to issues in the weeks, months, and years following such an injury. Causes of Brain Injury You don’t even have to be an athlete – professional or otherwise – to suffer a brain injury. Anyone can suffer a head injury. Anyone can slip or trip, be struck on the head, or be involved in a traffic accident. In fact, the largest portion of head injuries stem from accidental causes: Falls 40% Blunt trauma 15% Traffic accidents 14% Assaults 10% Unknown/other 19% After a Head Injury Even a mild head injury can cause temporary brain impairment – foggy thinking, memory loss, headaches, dizziness, fatigue, depression, and irritability are not uncommon. The good news is, many will recover from such symptoms within two weeks after the injury. But head trauma, whether mild or severe, and repeated injury can have long-term, lasting effects – some of which do not come to light until months or years later. The debilitating consequences of some head injuries can take a toll on quality of life many years after the injury was presumed healed. The long-term effects of a brain injury can include: Physical – limited mobility, weakness or stiffness of limbs, paralysis, tremors, visual impairments, epilepsy, sensory issues, fatigue Cognitive – speech and language difficulties, memory problems, impaired reasoning, reduced attention span, reduced ability to concentrate, loss of knowledge and ability to learn Emotional – mood swings, personality changes, anxiety, depression, anger, impulsiveness, aggression An individual with such impairments due to a head injury may find that they are unable to work to support their family, maintain their personal relationships, or even properly care for themselves. In fact, a single concussion makes an individual three times more likely to commit suicide. Head Injury? Get Help! Thankfully, individuals who have suffered a head injury don’t have to navigate the aftermath alone. There are numerous resources online that can help them and their loved ones to understand many of the issues they face. And if you have suffered a head injury that prevents you from working and taking care of your family, you may be eligible to receive disability payments through SSI. Be aware, however, that the application process for disability can be a lengthy one, and injuries such as a brain injury are often “hidden” disabilities with no obvious outward signs. It may be to your advantage to consult with an attorney who has experience with SSDI cases. If your head injury was caused by someone’s negligence, an attorney with experience in head injuries can help you to preserve your legal rights. The attorneys at Gerling Law have extensive experience in head injury cases and the disability application process. Give us a call – it won’t cost you anything to see if we can help!

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Winter Sports Injuries: Protect Yourself from Injury

For many in the Tri-State, a few inches of snow means a day off from our normal routine of school and work. It’s a time to cast off our regular daily activities in favor of playing in the snow, followed by warming up indoors with hot chocolate. Others anxiously await the winter season so they can hit the ski slopes or participate in a hockey league. You might think of winter as a time to cuddle up in a blanket and wait patiently for spring to arrive, but it’s possible to enjoy the ice and snow by participating in winter sports. Winter Sports – Fun For Everyone Winter sports and activities rely on ice and snow as a crucial element for fun. Skiing, snowboarding, sledding, and snowmobiling can’t happen without a significant layer of snow, and ice skating and hockey need ice both indoors and outside. Every winter, the slopes see more than 50 million skiing and snowboarding visits, while more than a half million people in the US play ice hockey. And of course, there are untold thousands of kids and adults out on sleds every time there is a significant snowfall. All in the name of wintertime fun. Wintertime Sports Injuries Unfortunately, any time you’re talking about snow or ice, you’re also talking about injuries. Even the most careful among us can get hurt participating in wintertime sports. Some of the more common injuries include: Broken bones Sprains Lacerations Head injuries Spinal cord injuries Accidents happen, and people get hurt – but there are steps you can take to minimize risk. Safety in Winter Sports No matter what winter sport interests you, there are precautions you’ll want to take in order to enjoy it safely. Protective gear – Depending on the activity, there are numerous options for protective gear. Padding, braces, and helmets are all important – and in some cases, necessary – pieces of equipment for winter sports. Face masks, mouth guards, and specialized clothing are also important. Appropriate instruction – Anyone learning to skate, ski, or snowboard can benefit from professional instruction. Learning the basics of how to start, control your speed, and stop in your chosen activity, and practicing those skills will help you to enjoy the activity so much more. And while it might seem strange, learning how to fall is key to preventing more serious injury. Preparation – Sometimes injury occurs because your body isn’t fully prepared for the activity. There is a reason most pro athletes stretch and warm up before competition: warming up your muscles makes you less susceptible to injury if you take a tumble. Good sense – Understanding your limitations can go a long way toward keeping you healthy. Don’t be embarrassed to spend all of your time on the bunny slope. You’ll get better with time and practice. Safe Sledding Even if you’re not planning on learning to ski or ice skate, it’s hard to resist the lure of a snow day spent sledding. Sledding doesn’t take any special skill, but it does take some common sense. If you’re going to be joining the throngs of kids on the golf course, make sure you follow these guidelines: Dress warmly Choose a hill with a flat area at the bottom to aid in stopping Avoid hills that end near a street or parking lot Avoid hills near ponds, trees, fences, or other hazards Only sled in a front-facing, sitting position – and never headfirst Return to the top of the hill by walking up the side, never straight up the middle Keep a cell phone handy in case you need to call for help Even though the groundhog has predicted an early spring, there may still be wintry weather on tap before the daffodils bloom. Have fun, but be safe – and if you’re injured by someone’s negligence during winter sporting activities, remember: talking with an attorney experienced in personal injury cases can help to preserve your legal rights.

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Concussions and Other Brain Injuries

When is a bump on the head more than just a bump on the head? Each year, over 2.5 million people are treated in hospital emergency rooms for head injuries of varying degrees. Nearly 80% of these are treated and released; of the remaining 20%, some suffer severe, long-term injuries, and some die. The anatomy of the human brain Most of us know that the human brain is divided into two halves, or hemispheres. The left side of the brain is responsible for such attributes as logic, mathematics, and language, while the right side is responsible for imagination, motor skills, and emotions. We often speak of someone as being “right-brained” or “left-brained,” as a means of describing their talents and temperament, but in truth both sides of the brain work together. The brain is protected by the bones of the skull, and in the space between the brain tissue and skull bones, tissue and fluid serve as cushioning and further protection of our most vital organ. Damage to the brain can affect motor skills, thought processes, and even our emotions and personality. Types of brain injury A brain injury is caused by a blow or jolt to the head that causes the brain to strike against the skull, or by an event that penetrates the skull. Most of us use the common term “concussion” to describe such an event, but there are varying degrees of injury: Concussion – trauma to the brain from an impact or sudden momentum or movement change Contusion – result from a direct impact to the head, causing bleeding (bruising) on the brain Coup-Contrecoup – trauma resulting from a force strong enough to cause damage both at the site of impact and on the complete opposite side of the brain Diffuse Axonal – result from a shaking or rotational force, in which shearing of the brain tissue occurs Penetration – trauma from an impact that breaches the skull and introduces skin, hair, and fragments into the brain matter Who suffers a brain injury, and why? Most of us think about brain injury as the result of a traffic accident or sports injury. While traffic accidents account for 14% of TBIs and blows to the head (as occur in sports injuries) account for 15% of TBIs, by far the largest portion of brain injuries stem from falls – 40%. Falls are the cause of more than half (55%) of brain injuries in children ages 0-14, and in 81% of adults aged 65+. Protecting Your Brain Anyone can suffer a brain injury, so taking precautions to protect your brain is important. Wear your seatbelt Wear a helmet when riding a bike, motorcycle, or scooter Wear a helmet for contact sports such as football and hockey Wear a helmet for such activities as skateboarding, skating, and skiing Be extra careful in snowy and icy weather Use a hard hat if you work in construction Be aware of slip and trip hazards in your home (electrical cords, throw rugs) Your brain is arguably the most important organ in your body – it’s the command center for involuntary body functions such as breathing and heartbeat, where your motor skills originate, and where your intelligence and personality lie. Protecting this vital organ should be a top priority no matter what activity you engage in, particularly since damage due to a brain injury can be permanent or even fatal. If you or someone you love has suffered a brain injury as a result of someone else’s negligence, speaking with an attorney with experience in medical injury cases can protect your legal rights. For more information, contact Gerling Law – it won’t cost you anything to see if we can help!

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Workplace Safety – Protecting Older Workers on the Job

“Dying with your boots on” is a phrase most often associated with tales of the American West, suggesting a way of life that is alternately romantic and dangerous. But “dying with your boots on” takes on an entirely different meaning when you consider the thousands of workers who die on the job every year. In 1970, Congress passed the Occupational Safety and Health Act, which created standards for workplace safety and has greatly reduced the number of workplace deaths since its passage. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), founded in 1971, has worked on both a state and national level to decrease workplace mortality rates by more than 66% in the four decades since the Act was passed. Who is most likely to die on the job? Even though the worker mortality rate, thanks to federal laws and regulations, has continued to fall each year, there is one age group for whom the reverse is true: workers 65+. Workers in this age group are nearly three times more likely to die on the job than any other age group. And it’s a growing issue: more than a quarter (26.8%) of the U.S. workforce in 2012 was in the 65-74 age range, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that by 2022, that percentage will increase to 31.9%. This statistic is the result of a simple formula: workers continue to work long after traditional retirement age, and the process of aging makes them more vulnerable to injury and death on the job. The value of older workers in the workplace There is no doubt that the workforce is graying; with life expectancies now at 20 years past traditional retirement age, many older workers are opting to stay in the workforce. For some, working is a way to remain active, engaged, and productive. For others, retirement simply isn’t an option. Employers benefit from having older workers on staff in numerous ways. Older workers bring maturity and experience to the day-to-day operation of a business, and their knowledge and skills can be particularly helpful in mentoring younger colleagues. Smart employers who seek out and retain older workers receive distinct advantages for their foresight: Company loyalty Dedication to job responsibilities Strong work ethic Commitment to company vision Professionalism Established skill set Reduced need for training and supervision Still, for all of the positives older workers bring to the table, businesses must consider adaptations to accommodate the needs brought on by aging. The most dangerous fields for older workers Older workers can be found in practically every industry, but there are some fields that require agility, quick reaction and response, and sharpened senses – attributes that diminish as a person ages. The construction industry is one such field, as is the transportation industry. While both present varying degrees of danger to workers regardless of age, older workers in particular can be vulnerable to hazards that are inherent to the job. How employers can protect older workers So how do employers protect older workers on the job, regardless of industry? To get the full advantage of an older worker’s considerable knowledge and skillset, companies can: Adapt job responsibilities to fit employee needs and ability Improve the physical work environment through additional safety precautions Alter tasks to reduce repetitive motion injuries Offer flexible work schedules, job sharing, or reduced hours Provide workplace enhancements such as improved lighting and volume-adjustable telephone equipment Retrain workers, both for other positions within the company as well as for tasks within their current position Older workers are a valuable resource in today’s business world, and companies would be wise to adapt in order to get the full advantage of their expertise. As the workplace continues to gray in the coming years, older workers will pass on the knowledge and skills that have helped to build successful businesses across all industries. And while workplace safety accommodations may benefit older workers, up-and-coming younger workers will benefit from them, as well.

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Can somebody really sue me if they slip and fall on my ice?

Every year, over eight million people pay a visit to the ER for a common mishap – a fall. While some falls are minor, others have serious consequences, including brain and spinal cord injury, lost time and wages, and even death. For the elderly in particular, a fall can be fatal. The causes for a fall are numerous – slippery surfaces, trip hazards, loose floor coverings, uneven surfaces, and even mobility issues common in older adults. During the winter months, the odds of someone – regardless of age – slipping and falling increase every time the area is visited by Old Man Winter. Snow and ice can make even the most secure surface treacherous, and property owners bear responsibility for reducing the likelihood of a fall when surfaces turn icy. Should I Clear My Snow and Ice In Indiana there is only one specific snow removal law on the books; most municipalities have some sort of regulation in place to guide property owners in their responsibilities to the public. The main law regarding snow removal in Indiana concerns where to place the removed snow. Property owners must exercise reasonable care not to interfere with safe travel on public roadways; a hazard or obstruction such as a pile of snow scraped from a sidewalk or parking lot needs to be placed out of the way of a public roadway. While this may fall under the heading of common sense, laws such as these exist in order to protect the public from danger. It is the responsibility of property owners to make an appropriate effort to clear snow and ice from their property in order to reduce the likelihood of someone slipping and falling on their premises. Scraping and plowing large areas, shoveling entrances and sidewalks, and putting down salt and/or sand are all measures that can be taken to provide a reasonably secure surface. Repeated winter blasts can complicate these efforts, but property owners must work to keep surfaces clear. In Evansville, the occupant or owner of a property is required to remove snow and ice from the sidewalk and entrance to their premises. If the weather is such that removal is impossible, the responsibility shifts to providing traction on the surface by the application of salt and/or sand. Staying on your feet Even with the responsibility of a property owner or tenant to keep their sidewalks and entrances clear, it’s always a good idea to take precautions to prevent falling during icy weather. Pay attention to your feet – Proper footwear can go a long way toward giving you needed traction on an icy surface. Shoes with lugged rubber soles provide the best form of traction on ice and snow, and on indoor surfaces that are wet from tracked-in snow. Slow down – If you usually walk at a brisk pace, walking slowly might be a challenge. But a slower pace and shorter steps can help you to navigate a slick surface more safely. Short strides help to keep your body centered over your feet, which allows you to adjust if your feet start to slip. Keep your hands free – Our hands and arms are part of our natural equilibrium, and our bodies’ automatic reaction to a fall is to use our arms and hands to rebalance ourselves or break the fall. Try to avoid carrying items across slippery surfaces, and leave your arms free to help you stay upright. Take care getting into or out of a vehicle – Many times, parking areas are slick with packed snow or ice, and it’s easy for your feet to slip when you move from a sitting position inside your car or vice versa. Don’t assume a cleared path is a sturdy path – Black ice is dangerous and hard to see, even on surfaces that appear to be clean. Watch for vehicles – Just because you’re using a sidewalk, don’t assume that you’re safe from traffic. A car sliding on a slick surface may not be able to avoid pedestrian paths. The same goes for pedestrians and vehicles in parking lots. Indoor surfaces can be slick, too – During winter weather, it’s hard to keep the outdoors from coming inside, and building entrances often harbor wet floors and slip hazards. Don’t assume you’re home free once you get indoors. While most property owners do indeed look out for the welfare of those entering their property, there are some who don’t put forth the necessary amount of effort to assure no one falls. It is in these instances that speaking with a slip and fall attorney with experience in premises liability laws is in the best interest of someone who has been injured. Contact Gerling Law if you’ve been injured in a slip and fall accident – it won’t cost you anything to see if we can help!

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Kids, Coats, and Carseats

There are few things more adorable in this world than a small child dressed for winter. The vision of rosy cheeks, a red nose, knitted hat, and warm coat fit the image of an idyllic childhood winter spent playing in the snow. But while that big, puffy coat or snowsuit might protect your little one from winter’s harsh cold, it can have quite the opposite effect when it comes to traveling in the car. Every winter, consumer safety groups and news outlets remind parents of the dangers of buckling a child wearing a heavy winter coat into a car seat. It seems counterintuitive to put a child into the car without a coat, but it should be considered to have as few bulky layers as possible between a child and the car seat harness designed to keep them safe in a car. Why? The average puffy coat or snowsuit adds four inches of bulk to your child’s frame when fitting the harness straps for a car seat… but that four inches of bulk can be compressed to virtually nothing in the event of a crash. Adult seat belts operate with tensioners that react to the force of a crash by retracting – infant and child car seats do not possess this type of mechanism and therefore will not hold a child securely in the seat once the coat or snowsuit is compressed. Even a low impact crash at 30MPH can have serious consequences for a child whose car seat straps are not properly secured. (For the record, bulky coats on adults in the car are similarly hazardous, regardless of the belt tensioning mechanism.) How to Test Your Car Seat’s Harness Fit How do you know if your child’s winter coat affects the safety of your car seat? A simple test can help you to determine if your child is buckled in safely. Dress your child in his coat and buckle him into the car seat, making sure the seat harness is tight against the coat. Take your child out of the car seat and remove the coat. Place your child back in the car seat without the coat, and rebuckle the harness. Check fit of harness straps. Ideally, you should not be able to pinch the strap between your thumb and forefinger at collarbone level. Additionally, the chest buckle should be at armpit height. If the harness straps are loose, the coat interferes with the proper fit of the seat harness and should not be worn while the child is traveling in the seat. How Do I Keep My Child Warm in the Car? There are ways to keep your child warm in the car that do not involve wearing a bulky coat. First and foremost, dress your child in thin, snug layers, just like you would yourself. A blanket tucked around an infant that is properly buckled into a car seat or infant carrier can provide the necessary warmth for travel. For older children, simply have them slip their arms through the sleeves of their coat and let the back of the coat rest against their chest; this will allow them free movement of their arms while also letting the coat do its job of keeping them warm. When it comes to keeping your child safe in a car seat, remember that bulky coats, snowsuits, and aftermarket items designed to be used with a car seat can actually do more harm than good in the event of a crash. A car seat is designed to provide protection for its passenger under very specific circumstances; adding padding, layers, or any aftermarket products such as a head positioner can negate the car seat’s manufacturer warranty. The only exception is the accessories that come packaged with a car seat, for use with that specific seat. These items have been properly crash-tested by the manufacturer to exacting federal standards and have been designed for use with that particular seat. Adding anything else to your car seat – including those fun little toy bars – compromise the very safety of the child you seek to protect. If you’d like to know more about the dangers of children wearing bulky coats in car seats, watch this recent report from NBC’s Today Show. The dramatic footage of a simulated low-speed impact accident explains the danger in ways that words can’t. Our children are the most precious cargo we’ll ever transport. Your kids might look adorable in their puffy coats, but when it comes to car seat safety, buckle them in without their coat on. A little momentary discomfort from the cold is worth their continued safety in the event of a crash!

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Holiday Parties and Liability

Who among us hasn’t “made rather merry” during the holiday season? For businesses hosting holiday parties – more than 90% of them in 2014 – making merry must be done carefully. Holiday parties foster an atmosphere that, when done right, can serve to show your employees appreciation for their efforts. Still, companies that choose to host a holiday gathering must do so with an eye toward their liability in such a situation. Making Rather Merry… Prudently Companies choosing to host a holiday party for their employees would be wise to consider the following: Hold the party offsite – Not only does getting away from the office boost employee morale, holding your company party at a hotel or restaurant shifts a portion of the liability onto the venue; most hold a liquor license and use their own employees to serve guests. Include spouses and family – By extending a party invitation to your employees’ spouses, plus-ones, and families, it feels more like a social occasion and less like a business function. Additionally, making the party family-friendly can help to mitigate poor behavior. Limit or eliminate alcohol – Alcohol can relax a business mindset, but too much imbibing can be…well, too much. You have several options when it comes to serving alcohol at a company party. If you’re not inclined to eliminate it completely from the party (and many companies aren’t), then a cash bar staffed by a trained bartender can help to regulate consumption. If you’re feeling generous, you can offer vouchers for one or two drinks. Close the bar an hour before the party’s scheduled end, as well. And always make sure there are plenty of non-alcoholic beverages available all evening. Serve food – Ample food – not just a few hors d’oeurves – will help reduce alcohol consumption as well as make your party guests feel appreciated… which is one of the main reasons you’re having a holiday party, right? Offer transportation options – Provide a voucher for cab service or encourage attendees to use a designated driver. Offer negotiated rates for lodging – If you choose to hold your holiday party at a hotel, negotiate a group rate for those who would like to stay overnight. Consider an alternative to evening or weekend parties – If you’re looking to hold the line on costs as well as liability, consider a workday party such as a luncheon or potluck. During this busy season, such an event may be a welcome break from the workday. Employee Responsibility Holiday parties can be fraught with tension for employers and employees alike; many employees don’t socialize with their coworkers outside of the office, so for some, this is new territory. Employees would do well to consider their responsibilities at the office party, too. Go easy on the alcohol – Your employer may limit the amount of alcohol served, but ultimately the responsibility for your consumption is yours. Remember your manners – Don’t do anything that would make you the subject of office gossip (and possibly disciplinary action) in the days and weeks following the party. This includes off-color jokes, ill-advised dance moves, and unwelcome attention paid to a coworker. Don’t talk business – a holiday party isn’t the place to hold an impromptu meeting, and it’s definitely not the place to take others to task. Save your concerns and potential confrontations for the workweek, where there is no alcohol involved. Be appreciative – Your boss or company owner went to a lot of trouble to put on a holiday event for the staff. Even if you plan a classic “Irish goodbye” (slipping out unnoticed before the end of the party), express your appreciation to the person in charge. Dress appropriately – Office dress code rules are still applicable for the company party; even if it’s a casual, jeans-and-an-ugly-sweater party, don’t step too far away from appropriate dress. Resist the urge to keep the party going – If you’re one of the last ones to leave the party, don’t suggest continuing the celebration elsewhere. Holiday parties can be great for office morale and a good way to get to know your employees and coworkers on a more personal level. Approach them with the right mixture of fun and caution, and a good time can be had by all.

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Tire Safety: Age and Dangerous Defects

How much thought do you give to the tires on your vehicle? If you’re like most, you probably don’t give them a lot of thought unless you have a flat. But a recent special investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) suggests that all of us should be paying more attention to the four wheels that carry us everywhere on a daily basis. Tire safety has been a topic in the media for many years, with various news outlets focusing on different parts of the tire industry. One theme has surfaced over and over: there are millions of dangerous tires still on the road. When a recall is issued for a certain tire brand or production batch, only a small percentage of the affected tires are ever replaced. In fact, the NTSB estimates that56% of defective, dangerous tires are still on the road. A Twofold Problem The NTSB launched its special investigation into tire issues following a string ofdeadly accidents caused by defective tires that had been recalled. Information gleaned from that investigation served to highlight the many ways the tire safety system is ineffective at best. At issue are the way tires are accounted for after sale, and the length of time some tires are warehoused before being put into service. Tire manufacturers that sell directly to the consumer through dealers or distributors require newly purchased tires be registered, recording the TIN in relation to contact information for the purchaser. If these tires ever fall under a recall, the manufacturer can then notify the consumer. However, the majority of American consumers purchase their tires through independent dealers and distributors, who are not held to these same requirements. If there is a tire recall, these consumers are not notified and, unaware, continue to drive on tires that should be replaced. What’s more, most consumers don’t know that tires should be registered with the manufacturer in order to be notified for recalls. A concurrent issue is that tires sold as new may, in fact, be several years old. Tire stock can exist in warehouses and distribution centers for many years before they make it to the sales floor and onto your vehicle. Even though they have never made contact with the road, the rubber in a tire that’s several years old may have degraded to the point of eventual – and catastrophic – failure. Do Tires Have Expiration Dates? Unlike a carton of milk or a tube of sunscreen, tires aren’t given an expiration date. Rubber manufacturers suggest that tire life should be limited to six years, regardless whether a tire is put into service or not – but caution that many variables can cause a tire to become unsafe before the six-year limit is up. The imperfect system for tire registration that currently exists allows tires past the six-year limit to be put into service, and fails to notify a vast number of consumers when a tire recall is issued. Clearly, this is a system that needs to be overhauled to benefit the safety of the consumer. Following its special investigation, the NTSB has issued recommendations that include development of a coding system that renders tires easily scannable at the point of purchase, as well as building a national database of TINs and their respective purchasers to make notification of recalls easier. About Tire Identification Numbers (TINs) Every tire manufactured has a Tire Identification Number (TIN) imprinted on the sidewall. This number begins with the letters DOT and will contain coded letters and numbers including manufacturing location, tire size, manufacturer specifications, and the week and year the tire was manufactured. The digits denoting the week and year the tire was manufactured can cause some confusion, because these numbers indicate a specific week and year; for example, a number of 4107 means the 41stweek of 2007, and not April 1, 2007 as many might assume. It’s also important to note that TINs are erroneously described as “serial numbers” – a serial number is unique to one item, where the TIN indicates a batch number. If a recall is issued for a specific TIN, it affects all the tires in that production batch. It may be difficult to locate the TIN on your vehicle’s tires, mainly due to the fact that it is generally only located on one side of the tire, and that side may be turned inward on your vehicle. If you have trouble locating the TIN, ask for this information the next time you have your oil changed; the technician should be able to check for these numbers while your car is on the lift. If your tires are six years old or older, you will want to consider replacing them, for your safety and that of your family. Have Your Tires Been Recalled? Of the 19,000 people injured in tire-related crashes in 2013, more than 500 were killed. Proper tire care and maintenance is important, and that includes learning whether or not your tires have been recalled. If you know the brand name and tire line/size of the tires on your vehicle, you can check to see if they are subject to a recall. Remember, a recall affects all tires in a production batch, regardless of how new they are. To check for a tire recall: Go to the NHTSA’s recalls site atwww.recalls.gov Select “Tire Recalls” Go to the section labeled “Tires” Enter the requested information (brand name and tire line/tire size) You can also join the NHTSA’s Recall Notification System, which will place your email address on a notification list for a variety of automotive recalls, from tires to child restraints to vehicles. You will receive an email when recalls are issued, and if they affect your vehicle, you will be able to take the next steps necessary to keep yourself and your loved ones safe. Because the current system is deeply flawed and it will take considerable time and effort to create a system that benefits the consumer when it comes to dangerous and defective...

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Are Tour Buses Safe?

When the news broke recently that Elkhart-based bus manufacturer Forest River, Inc. had been fined by the U.S. Department of Transportation for failure to report defects and announce safety recalls, it caught many by surprise. Many churches, sports teams, tour operators, and senior centers own and operate a bus or fleet of buses in order to transport large groups of people to various events. Maybe you’ve taken such a trip. But are you certain the vehicle you’ve been riding in is safe? The Problem – And the Danger Commercial multi-passenger vehicles are tested and certified to carry a specific weight limit; exceeding that limit can create an environment in which the tires fail, causing a loss of control and rollover. Starcraft, the subsidiary of Forest River that manufactures several popular bus models, altered the base chassis of their buses by extending the length of the chassis, adding seats, and adding cargo space. These alterations served to increase the weight of the vehicle and negate the safe weight limits for which the original chassis was certified. The inherent dangers to an overloaded bus came to light in 2009 when members of a Louisiana church group were involved in an accident caused by a fully-loaded Starcraft bus that exceeded safe weight limits. The combined weight of passengers, luggage, and fuel put stress on the tires, causing a tire failure. The resulting loss of control due to the blown tire caused the bus to overturn and roll, injuring and/or killing several in the church group. The Consequences The last of the personal injury cases were settled in 2012, but it wasn’t until 2013 that Forest River issued a recall for some of its buses. The recall was small – only 399 vehicles – and made no mention of the tragedy that had triggered it. It was classified by Forest River as a recall due to a “warranty claim,” and offered fixes that included upgrading the tires and installing additional springs in the rear suspension assembly, as well as recertifying the buses to a higher Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GWVR). The buses in question had been manufactured between 2002 and 2007 – meaning that some had been in use for a decade before recalls were issued. In the wake of significant vehicle safety issues, such as the Takata airbag recall, in recent months, the NHTSA has tightened up its requirements for manufacturers in the issuance of timely safety defect recalls. As a result, they have levied substantial fines against Forest River for their failure to report critical safety issues in a timely manner. Protecting Your Safety While agencies such as the U.S. Department of Transportation and the NHTSA exist to protect the consumer, this emphasizes just how long it can take before action is taken on a serious safety issue. This is why attorneys with experience in consumer safety issues are constantly fighting for the legal rights of people from all walks of life. If your church or organization owns and uses a bus for group travel, investigation into that vehicle’s safety should be a priority. Your life and the lives of your loved ones may depend on it!

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Being Safe – Not Scared – This Halloween

“Trick or treat!“ That time of year is upon us once again – the night where little spooks and goblins visit our homes and ask us for candy. Halloween is a billion-dollar business in the United States, growing in popularity each year. It’s estimated that Americans will spend nearly seven billion dollars on the spooky holiday this year, a third of which will be candy sales. All those costumes and decorations and candy peak on October 31st, when doorbells will ring all over town with the familiar call: “trick or treat!” To help make Halloween as safe and enjoyable as it can be, Gerling Law offers thesesafe Halloween tips courtesy of the Evansville Police Department: Before Halloween Make sure that costumes and wigs are flame resistant. Choose light or brightly colored costumes making them more visible. Know that masks can block or severely limit your child’s vision. Consider costumes that do not require masks, using non-toxic make-up instead. Consider using reflective tape or striping of some type on your child’s costume and/or treat bag. Be sure that shoes are comfortable and fit properly. Have each child carry a flashlight with fresh batteries to use after it gets dark. Discuss proper and appropriate behavior that you expect from your child before leaving the house. Have a meeting point in case you and your child get separated. Set a time for older children to return home. Safety while trick-or-treating Do not let your children eat any treats until you have checked them for safety. Plan your child’s route. Safer alternatives to neighborhood trick-or-treating are family parties, community sponsored events such as the Main St. trick-or-treat and the Mall, and Boo at the Zoo. Travel in groups to be more visible and less of a target for criminals. Have parents with younger children at all times. Leave all of your exterior lights on at your house. Never enter a stranger’s home. Be cautious of all vehicular traffic. Have your child tell you of any suspicious-acting people. After trick-or-treating Check all candy thoroughly before letting your child eat any. Check for loose wrappers and holes in any candy or wrapper. Do not eat homemade treats unless you know and trust the person who gave it to your child. While at home handing out treats, don’t open the door for anyone who makes you feel uncomfortable and never let strangers inside your home. Candy Safety We’ve all heard the warnings about candy that’s been tampered with, and while some of those stories are urban legends, it never hurts to be cautious about such things.Many area police and fire departments, as well as hospitals, offer free candy checks on Halloween to help ease parents’ minds about the treats their kids bring home. One area of concern that may not get as much airplay is candy that contains allergens – such as peanuts or gluten – that can cause health issues for those with food allergies. The good news is, there are lots of treats that those with food allergies can consume, so if you’re handing out candy, you might want to have a stash of allergy-free candy on hand. But not all Halloween treats need to be candy-based. The non-profit group Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) has created a campaign called The Teal Pumpkin Project, encouraging non-food treats. Participating households can place a teal-painted pumpkin at their home as a signal to allergic trick-or-treaters that their house is handing out allergy-safe goodies. There are plenty of non-edible treat ideasout there that can be found with a quick internet search if you’d like to participate in this project. Halloween is meant to be fun and enjoyable, but it also means being careful and safe while you enjoy the evening. Gerling Law hopes that all your little ghouls and goblins have fun on the spookiest night of the year!

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