| Read Time: 3 minutes | safety

Boating Safety and the Ohio River

One of the distinct advantages of living along the Ohio River is that we have miles and miles of open water available to us for recreation, right at our doorstep. Hot weather drives us toward the water, and the Independence Day holiday is a prime time for boating, skiing, and fishing. Many boaters are out on the water well after dark to take in a fireworks show. The Biggest Boating Day of the Year Independence Day has traditionally been the most popular day for boating in the United States, particularly because it often comes with a three-day weekend. The weather is hot, and the water is cool, and it’s hard to beat that combination for fun. But it’s also often the mostdangerous day for boating – inexperienced vehicle operators, excessive speed, and alcohol consumption can contribute to accidents and injuries, just like they do on dry land. Boating and Alcohol Don’t Mix More than 600 people lost their lives in a boating accident in 2014, and alcohol was a leading factor in nearly a quarter of these deaths. Alcohol is especially potent on the water, because the pitching and rolling motions associated with being on a boat – in addition to being physically taxing – tend to scramble a person’s equilibrium. Add bright sunshine and heat to the mix, and it further intensifies the feelings of intoxication. And it doesn’t matter if you’re at the helm or sitting in the passenger seat – the odds of death are nearly identical for both captains and passengers when alcohol is involved. Life Jackets The U.S. Coast Guard requires that a boat have one USCG-approved life jacket per person aboard. While there are no rules requiring the wearing of lifejackets while boating, the Coast Guard recommends that children wear one at all times while on the water, as well as having them easily accessible in the event of an emergency.More than 80% of people who drowned while boating in 2014 were not wearing life jackets; in order for a life jacket to be effective, it must be: USCG approved, appropriately sized for the person wearing it, in good condition, and WORN by the user. Wear a life jacket even if you know how to swim, and be aware that river currents can be stronger than you anticipate. Boating at Night What’s an Independence Day celebration without fireworks? Many people are out on the water on Independence Day to take advantage of a great view of riverfront fireworks – in fact, it may be the only day of the year they’re out on the water after dark. Safe boating after dark requires proper navigational lighting for your vessel so that others can see you in the water, but additional lights such as cabin lights or other onboard courtesy lights reduce your night vision. Speed is another concern at night, as well; in Indiana, boats on the water at night must not travel at speeds greater thanten miles per hour. Safe Boating is Enjoyable Boating No matter what your plans are for being out on the water this summer, being a responsible boater – and boat passenger – is the best way to protect the health and safety of everyone involved. In addition to wearing life jackets, avoiding alcohol, and adhering to a reasonable speed, there are other precautions you should take. Make sure your boat is properly equipped – the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary offers aVessel Safety Check to help determine if you have all of the necessary equipment onboard Be prepared for emergencies – check your first aid kit, make sure it’s filled and up-to-date, and know basic first aid procedures Plan for proper hydration – just because you’re out on the water doesn’t mean you won’t need water to drink, or snacks to keep your energy levels up File a float plan – tell someone on dry land where you’re headed and when you anticipate returning Keep a sharp lookout – debris in the water can damage or even capsize a boat, and sandbars can be well-hidden in shallow water Watch the weather – storms and windy conditions can occur at any time during hot, humid summer days, so know the forecast before you launch and keep an eye on the sky Be sun-smart – wear sunscreen, protect your eyes from the glare of bright sunshine bouncing off the water, and know when you’ve had enough sun for one day Practice the three Cs: courtesy, common sense, caution – a boater has many of the same vehicular responsibilities as someone in a car on dry land If you’re going to be out on the water this Independence Day – or any other day of the year – understand that a fun day on the water can turn tragic very quickly if you’re unprepared. At Gerling Law, we hope that everyone has a wonderful holiday, and many other enjoyable days out on the water!

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| Read Time: 3 minutes | social security disability

The SSDI Application Process

You may have heard that getting Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is a hard road to travel, if not practically impossible. The SSDI process can take anywhere from30 days to two years for benefits from an initial claim to be approved, and along the way there will be denials and appeals. It seems unfair – you’re hurt, or you’ve developed a mental or emotional condition that renders you unable to work, and yet you’re being denied benefits from a system that you’ve paid into all your working life. But more than two-thirds of people applying for benefits have their initial application denied. It takes perseverance to see this process all the way through, and many people give up on the process too easily. After all, when you’re hurt, you just don’t have the energy needed for this lengthy procedure. And yet, being denied benefits can negatively impact your family – if you’re unable to work, you could lose your home, become mired in deep debt, and be unable to fully enjoy life. While the path to SSDI benefits isn’t a walk in the park, it’s also not impossible – if you don’t give up before the process is finished. This is where an attorney with experience in SSDI cases can be particularly helpful. The Process The entire process from application to awarding of benefits can take up to five distinct steps before a final judgment is rendered. These steps, along with the most recent percentages of success (2013), are outlined below: Application: Allowed – 33%; Denied – 67% Reconsideration: Allowed – 11%; Denied – 89% Hearing with Administrative Law Judge (AL J): Allowed – 48%; Dismissed – 17%; Denied – 35% Appeals Council: Allowed – 1%; Dismissed – 4%; Remanded – 17%; Denied – 78% Federal District Court: Allowed – 2%; Dismissed – 9%; Remanded – 42%; Denied – 46% Appealing a Denial Most people applying for SSDI expect to be denied the first time, and understand the high likelihood of being denied after reconsideration. Nationally, approvals are granted only 11% of the time during the reconsideration stage; in the Indiana, however, it’s notably lower – only 4.8%. A hearing with the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) generally follows the denial at reconsideration, but the process is not over even after an ALJ denies the case – an attorney can continue on to the Appeals Council, Federal District Court, and the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. A claimant still has the opportunity for approval of benefits past that point – the chances of their case being remanded (returned) to a lower court for reexamination at the Appeals Council and Federal District Court levels are almost 60%. Why Cases Are Remanded There are numerous reasons SSDI claims are remanded to a lower court. Often, initial claims cases are reviewed by doctors with specialties completely unrelated to the case they are reviewing – for example, an OB/GYN may be making a decision on a bipolar disorder case or a case of Degenerative Disc Disease. Though all physicians enter the medical field with the same basic training, specialists train extensively in one area of expertise, rendering their judgment most effective in that area. As you might imagine, this can give judges in higher courts a reason to remand a case – in fact, Judge Richard Poser of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals (which serves, in part, the state of Indiana) recently took issue with this problem. In a case presented to the Court of Appeals, Judge Posner took issue with the conclusions handed down by the ALJ and two doctors that examined the case of an individual with chronic pain seeking SSDI. The two doctors offering opinions on the case were a pediatrician and an anesthesiologist, causing Posner to write, “We note the oddity of inviting a pediatrician to opine on the medical condition of a 28-year-old woman, and likewise the oddity of asking anesthesiologists to evaluate spinal-cord problems.” More than a third of claims are denied at the ALJ level, and the errors made in these denials result in nearly half of their decisions being remanded. The most common mistake ALJs make is the denial of benefits without a thorough analysis of the case, particularly with assigning weight to treating sources. In the 7th Circuit, there have been a lot of rulings chastising the ALJs for incorrectly denying benefits. In one decision, Judge Posner threatened to start sanctioning ALJs for denying benefits without a thorough analysis of the claim. Why Representation is Important Applying for SSDI takes a great deal of patience and persistence, and having an attorney with the experience to see the process through all the way to its natural conclusion can make all the difference in your receiving benefits. An attorney with experience in the SSDI process will take a worthy case all the way to federal court and beyond if necessary. If you’re considering applying for SSDI or have just begun the process, contact Gerling Law.

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| Read Time: 3 minutes | safety

Bicycle Safety on the Road

As the weather begins to warm here in the Tri-State, we see an increase of outdoor related accidents. After a cold and snowy winter, motorists often need to be reminded that they share the road with cyclists once the weather improves. Unfortunately, it’s often news stories such as these that serve as such a reminder. Each year, bicyclist deaths account for 2% of all motor vehicle traffic fatalities and 2% of all people injured in traffic accidents. That 2% might not seem like much, until you’re the one involved in a car-bike mashup. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) encourages both motorists and cyclists to respect the rules of the road – and to remember that a bicycle on the roadway is, by law, a vehicle with the same rights and responsibilities as motorized vehicles. Types of Bike Accidents Sharing the road requires that both motorists and cyclists be on the lookout for one another. Car-bike mishaps are common, but can be avoidable if you understand the ways they can happen. Here are a few of the most common vehicle-bike interactions: Right Cross – This occurs when you’re riding with the flow of traffic and a car pulls out in front of you – or conversely, you ride into the path of a car pulling out. Or, a car passes you on your left and then makes a right turn in front of you. Left Cross – A car makes a left turn in front of your path of travel. Crosswalk Crash – This occurs when you ride on the sidewalk and cross a street using the crosswalk, where a driver coming from either direction or making a turn can hit you Open Door – A cyclist riding too close to a row of parked cars takes the risk that a driver could suddenly open a car door into his path. Rear Ender – Just like automobiles, bikes can be hit from behind, too. While this is one of the more common fears of cyclists, it only accounts for 3.8% of collisions. Basics of Bicycle Safety Avoiding accidents is only half the story when it comes to bike safety. The other half includes being a prepared and conscientious rider, and taking the proper steps to protect yourself while on two wheels. Wear a helmet – Accidents can and do happen, but often the difference between a little bit of road rash and a significant injury such as a brain injury can be as simple as a protective bike helmet. Be visible – Visibility can be affected by such things as weather, time of day, and inattentiveness, so being visible is important. Increasing your visibility can include wearing bright or reflective clothing, using reflectors on your wheels and on the rear of your bike, and using lights on your bike. Use hand signals – Since a bike doesn’t come equipped with electronic signals like an automobile does, using hand signals will help alert motorists to your intentions. More tips Stay alert – You might enjoy listening to music while you ride, but the use of earbuds or headphones can keep you from being fully alert to your surroundings. The same goes for cell phones. Act like a car – By law, a bicycle has the same rights and responsibilities on the road as an automobile does. This includes obeying all traffic laws, signals, and lane markings. However, some motorists may not regard a bicycle with the same condsideraton as they would another vehicle, so be cautious. Ride with the traffic, not against – Because by law a bike is considered a vehicle, you must ride with the flow of traffic. Riding opposite of traffic flow is a dangerous risk to take. Make sure your bike is road-worthy – This includes making sure your tires are properly inflated, your brakes work, your seat is at the proper height, and that quick-release wheels are properly secured. Remember, bicycle safety is the responsibility of both cyclists and motorists, because we all share the road. Gerling Law actively promotes bicycle safety through the distribution of free bike helmets to kids every year. If you’d like to know more about our Great Helmet Giveaway, contact us! Gerling Law is a leading personal injury law firm dedicated to providing aggressive legal representation to individuals and their families.  With over 50 years of experience, Gerling Law has helped thousands of people in Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky recover hundreds of thousands of dollars in a wide variety of personal injury and consumer protection cases, including trucking accidents, wrongful death, medical malpractice, nursing home negligence and social security disability. Gerling Law takes pride in the fact that we have never represented insurance companies, hospitals or large corporations and that we fight against powerful companies for our clients. If you need an experienced, dedicated personal injury lawyer, Gerling Law is here to help.  You can always reach us at 888-GERLING (888-437-5464) or through our website at www.gerlinglaw.com.

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| Read Time: < 1 minute | personal injury

Negligence in the Workplace

“Every day in America, 12 people go to work and never come home. Every year in America, nearly 4 million people suffer a workplace injury from which some may never recover.” – Hilda Solis, Former Secretary of Labor, 2012 Four million people per year. That’s more than 10 thousand people per day. How many of these injuries were caused by negligence in the workplace? What is Negligence? Negligence is defined as “conduct that falls below the standards of behavior established by law for the protection of others against unreasonable risk of harm.” In the workplace, negligence is typically the result of a failure to maintain and uphold company standards of operations, behavior, or protocol, which in turn results in harm, injury, or damage to an employee of that workplace. What Negligence is NOT

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| Read Time: 3 minutes | auto

Auto Repair Claims – What You Need to Know

With 253 million cars on the road in the US, there’s a pretty good chance that accidents will happen, even to the most careful of drivers. Over five million non-fatal crashes occur every year, setting into motion millions of insurance claims. Insurance companies, under the guise of swift claims service, often mislead claimants in an effort to reduce the amount paid out for each claim. If you’ve been involved in an accident and need your car repaired, you may be encouraged by the insurance company to have the repairs done at one of their “preferred” body shops – and they’ll give you a list of reasons why this is a good idea; however, they may not tell you the entire truth: Repairs are “guaranteed” – Sometimes insurance companies will tell you that they cannot guarantee repairs if they are not done by one of their preferred body shops. This is not true. It is the body shop’s responsibility to warranty the work they do. You will need to pay the difference between what the preferred shop would charge and another shop charges – Initial insurance estimates often fall short of actual expenses; body shops must follow the standards set forth by the auto manufacturer to return your vehicle to pre-accident condition. You are not be required to pay the difference between a preferred shop’s rates and those of a non-preferred shop, unless your insurance policy explicitly states that this is the case. Preferred shops will give you quicker service – Most damaged vehicles can be inspected within three days of the accident, regardless of whether it’s at a preferred shop or not. Inspections by a claims adjuster which take longer than three days can be the result of an insurance company dragging its feet in an attempt to steer you toward a preferred shop. Shops not on the preferred list are labeled as difficult to work with – Translation: the non-preferred shop will not cut corners or withhold information from the vehicle owner. Claims settlement takes too long at a non-preferred shop – Settling a claim is in the hands of the insurance company, and a longer-than-usual repair time can be a result of an inaccurate estimate on the insurer’s part or a slow response time by the insurer to the body shop. Why do insurance companies try to steer you toward “preferred” repair shops? Remember, the purpose of an insurance company is to produce profits for its stockholders. Consider this: the average collision claim in 2013 was $3,144. Multiply that figure by the over five million accidents that occur each year, and you can see why insurance companies want to hold the line on claims payouts. In an effort to produce maximized profits through the reduction of claims paid, insurance companies will sometimes enter into agreements with repair shops. Known as a Direct Repair Program (DRP), this agreement between an insurer and a repair shop guarantees a certain flow of work into the shop in exchange for a discounted rate for repairs. Unfortunately, in the quest to maximize profits, sometimes the insurance companies put a squeeze on the repair shops – tightening budgets, reducing payouts, encouraging the use of junk or substandard parts, pressing for shortcuts. In order for the repair shop to continue to make a profit on the insurance work, the customer receives substandard repairs. And these repairs can be dangerous. Auto Repair Claims and Your Rights If you’ve been involved in a car accident and need repairs made to your vehicle, the main thing that you must remember is that you can take your car to any body shop that you choose. It’s the law! Your insurance policy will spell out the agreement between you and the company, but your insurance company must pay to return your car to pre-accident condition, minus your deductible if you were at fault in the accident. You also have other rights: You have the right to expect genuine, OEM parts You have the right to a guarantee that your vehicle will be repaired to factory standards You have the right to a minimum five-year warranty on factory replacement parts You have the right to a paint warranty of at least three years You have the right to a lifetime warranty on all labor performed in the course of the repairs If you’ve been involved in a traffic accident, getting your car repaired can become an even bigger nightmare than the accident itself. Insurance companies like to capitalize on the fact that being without your car is a major inconvenience, and will sometimes push you toward quick repairs at a “preferred” shop in order to minimize expenses and maximize profits. Don’t fall for these tactics. Your safety and the safety of those riding with you could be at stake.

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| Read Time: 2 minutes | defective products

Have You Been Treated for Injuries Caused by an IVC Filter?

Each year, over 600,000 people suffer a pulmonary embolism, where a blood clot formed in the leg breaks loose and travels to the lungs. More than 60,000 die, most within 30 to 60 minutes after symptoms start. Common treatment options begin with oral and injectable anticoagulant medications, also known as blood thinners, and end with the inferior vena cava (IVC) filter. IVC filters have been in use since the late 1960s, with a marked increase in use beginning in the late 1990s with the development of removable IVC filters. What is an IVC Filter? An IVC filter is a tiny metal device that can be described as cage-like or spider-like, which is implanted in the inferior vena cava, the artery that returns blood from the legs to the heart. The design of the IVC filter allows it to catch blood clots before they can travel toward the lungs. It is used as a last resort treatment for individuals who cannot take anticoagulant medications or those who are taking anticoagulants and still develop clots. Approved by FDA Without Testing Removable IVC filters have been approved by the FDA through their 510(k) clearance process. This process allows manufacturers to bypass the process of conducting new safety studies if their new device is similar to another device already on the market. This means that new designs of existing devices are not subject to rigorous testing to prove safety before being used by the medical community. The Dangers of IVC Filters IVC filters can fragment and migrate throughout the body, with potentially fatal outcomes if the fragments migrate into the heart, lungs, or other vital organs. By 2010, the FDA had issued a cautionary bulletin to doctors, following over 900 reports of adverse events involving IVC filters. Failure of IVC filters can include: Device fracture and fragmentation Device migration Embolization to heart or lungs Perforations of blood vessels Symptoms of IVC Filter Failure IVC filters come in two designs – permanent and removable. Removable IVC filters are designed for retrieval once the blood clot issue has resolved, but design flaws and fragmentation can render these filters impossible to remove. Individuals with a removable IVC filter that has fragmented and/or migrated are at an increased risk for severe complications, chronic pain, and even death. Symptoms of IVC filter failure can include but are not limited to: Rapid heartbeat Blood around the heart Difficulty breathing Nausea Vomiting blood Intermittent abdominal or back pain Gastric pain Have you or a family member been injured by an ICV filter? The manufacturers of IVC filters have repeatedly failed to warn the public about the potential risks associated with their devices. If you or a family member have suffered serious side effects from the use of an IVC filter, you may be entitled to compensation. Filters designed and produced by Bard Medical, Cook Medical, and Boston Scientific in particular have produced a high rate of failure for their devices. If you know or suspect that a faulty IVC filter was used to treat a blood clot issue in you or a family member, contact the Gerling Firm. An attorney experienced in medical products liability can help you understand your legal rights. Contact Gerling for a free case evaluation today.

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| Read Time: 4 minutes | defective products

Airbag Recalls, Public Safety, and Your Legal Rights

The news about the Takata airbag recall seems to get worse and worse. In addition to the ever-expanding recall, news sources report that manufacturer Takata became aware of the issue in 2004 and yet continued to manufacture a faulty design regardless of data culled from crash reports. Similarly, in the wake of the GM recall earlier in 2014, data that should have been more closely examined by the NHTSA was instead ignored in favor of a quick out. If we cannot rely on manufacturers and watchdog groups to examine crash data and act in an appropriate manner to protect the public, where do we place our trust? It’s not as if manufacturers and public safety agencies don’t have access to solid data regarding crash statistics. There is a significant volume of information available, and qualified statisticians can examine this data to determine what action should be taken to protect the consumer. Unfortunately, this data is sometimes discounted or unexamined, for any number of reasons. What is the responsibility of the manufacturer? Vehicle components are manufactured by numerous outside companies. It is the responsibility of each manufacturer to design and test their components to meet established safety standards. It is also the responsibility of the car maker to heed the information provided by the manufacturer, in addition to data received from crash results. Component failures as a result of accidents are often examined by engineers at the manufacturer, as was the case at Takata in 2004. However, merely testing and examining the data does not always result in corrective action being taken on the manufacturer level. According to a story by the New York Times, Takata engineers conducted tests on deployed airbags in 2004 and determined that there was a significant design flaw that made the airbags extremely dangerous to vehicle occupants in a crash. Based on these findings, the Takata engineers began to redesign the airbag assembly, only to have their work abruptly stopped by company executives. The data accrued from these tests was ordered destroyed, and the manufacture of airbags continued to progress based on the original (though faulty) design. What is the responsibility of the NHTSA? Because cars continued to be manufactured with the Takata airbags as originally designed, a different set of data began to accrue from accident reports: persons injured or killed by exploding airbags. Car makers are required to report crash data to the National Highway Transportation Administration (NHTSA), which is responsible for independently examining such data to identify trends. Accident data, when indicative of a trend, is used to determine if a recall is advised or necessary. While the data continued to mount regarding the airbag defect, the NHTSA instead chose to accept the assertion from Takata that the defect was the result of exposure to high humidity and therefore limited in scope – even after an initial recall of 4,000 Hondas for this issue, back in 2008. What happens when something falls through the cracks? The NHTSA sifts through a mountain of crash data every year and relies on car makers and component manufacturers to provide thorough information for assessment. Through the data provided and testing conducted by the NHTSA, recalls and advisories can be issued for a specific problem. However, the NHTSA can sometimes operate at a glacial pace, and recalls are not issued in a timely manner. This can be devastating to the general public. Can you depend on others to look out for public safety? Public safety can be a dicey business. Manufacturers balance safety with profit margins and must answer to shareholders. Oftentimes a problem such as the Takata airbag recall is so large and goes on for so many years that millions of consumers are put in harm’s way, just for the sake of company profitability. How important is it to seek out an individual to represent your interests? The question becomes, then, who can you trust to balance the scales in favor of your safety? This is where individuals such as attorneys step into the gap. An attorney versed in product liability laws can dive into the issue at hand and determine who is responsible and how far back that responsibility goes. While anyone can notice a problem and advocate for change, it is often those in the legal field who have the experience and depth of knowledge needed to make an immediate and long-lasting impact. Most attorneys are well aware of the reputation of the legal profession in today’s society, and yet the vast majority of lawyers out there wouldn’t dream of doing anything else for a living. Regardless of how society views the legal system, the fact remains that lawyers are champions of individual legal rights. We are committed to helping others solve problems that might seem overwhelming on the surface. So when an issue such as the Takata airbag recall begins to unspool in such a spectacular fashion, attorneys step in to assist individuals and their families in preserving their legal rights. The GM recall and the Takata airbag recall are prime examples of how a system designed to protect the public can be circumvented and rendered ineffective. Shoddy research and willful ignorance on the behalf of manufacturers and public safety groups can put individuals in danger, and it becomes the responsibility of attorneys to protect consumers. Hiring a lawyer means placing your trust in someone who has pledged to represent your interests, and it is a responsibility that your attorney takes very seriously.

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| Read Time: 3 minutes | defective products

Massive Airbag Recall: Are You In Danger?

In October 2014, a massive airbag recall of over 7.8 million vehicles was issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) over concerns that airbags from manufacturer Takata were faulty and dangerous. This recall covers numerous makes and models, affects vehicles worldwide, and continues to grow. Already this recall is substantially larger than the In October 2014, a massive airbag recall of over 7.8 million vehicles was issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) over concerns that airbags from manufacturer Takata were faulty and dangerous. This recall covers numerous makes and models, affects vehicles worldwide, and continues to grow. Already this recall is substantially larger than the recent recall of GM vehicles; including vehicles worldwide, the recall currently affects 16.5 million automobiles. The Problem Airbags produced by manufacturer Takata contain a flaw that causes the airbag, when deployed, to inflate explosively, causing parts inside the airbag ignition system to break off. These parts, made of plastic and metal, effectively become shrapnel, puncturing the airbag’s fabric and seriously injuring the vehicle’s occupants. In affected Honda vehicles, rupturing airbags have contributed to two deaths and more than 30 injuries, with an additional 139 injuries reported from a varied collection of other manufacturers using the Takata airbags. The Cause There is particular urgency for vehicles located in high-humidity areas, such as the South, because the defect is associated with the airbag ignition source, which uses ammonium nitrate as a source for ignition and inflation of the airbag. Ammonium nitrate is sensitive to moisture, and it is suspected that the flaw in the affected airbags involves exposure of the compound to air-born moisture found in hot, humid areas. The NHTSA advises consumers living in hot, humid areas – Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, and US territories American Samoa, Guam, Saipan, and the Virgin Islands – to have their vehicle inspected immediately. But regardless of where you live (and Southern Indiana can be hot and humid, too), assessing your vehicle’s risk for this recall should be done as soon as possible. The Legal Impact Happening so closely on the heels of the GM recall, the Takata airbag recall is alarming due to the incredible slowness of auto companies to respond to this defect. The issue with Takata’s airbags dates back to 2004, when Honda first noticed the defect and filed the necessary paperwork with the NHTSA. The defect was reported again in 2007, and continued to be reported as recently as 2009 and 2010, in which airbags deployed and exploded in minor accidents, severely injuring or killing vehicle occupants. Despite the reports filed as required by law, further investigation into the issue was limited at best. Only after Honda issued a second recall for the same issue did other automobile manufacturers begin to question the safety of the airbag products in use in their own product lines. According to a recent news article in the New York Times, when Takata became aware of the malfunction of its airbags in 2004, safety engineers at the company were ordered to conduct secret tests to determine the scope of the problem. The results of these tests led engineers to begin designing fixes for the issue in advance of a recall, but executives at Takata instead ordered testing data destroyed and maintained the existing airbag design. It was only after the growing body of evidence, several years in the making, pointed to a significant issue with the Takata airbag design that the NHTSA issued the airbag recall. Affected Models This recall affects more than 50 models manufactured between 2000 and 2011. The manufacturers include: BMW, Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Subaru, and Toyota. The NHTSA recommends you check your vehicle’s VIN number to determine if your vehicle is one affected by this recall. You can check your VIN number here. If your vehicle is affected by the airbag recall If you determine that your vehicle’s airbags are affected by this recall, contact your dealer’s service department and make arrangements for the necessary repairs. If you’ve been injured If you, a family member, or friend have been involved in an auto accident in which your airbags have deployed and ruptured due to this defect, causing injury or death, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact an experienced attorney for a review of the facts of your case.

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| Read Time: 4 minutes | safety

Be Informed When Using Alternative Medicine

Do you use alternative medicine instead of mainstream methods of medicine, and how certain are you about its effectiveness on your overall health? Alternatives to traditional medicine – known broadly by such terms as alternative medicine, holistic medicine, naturopathy, homeopathy, and natural medicine – have in recent years become more popular across all segments of  the population. However, alternative medicine can be dangerous, and using common sense will go a long way to protecting yourself from unscrupulous alternative medicine manufacturers. The attraction of “alternative” medicine Pharmaceutical companies bear some of the blame in driving people toward alternative medicine. It seems that any pharmaceutical advertising that we see on television or read in magazines also comes with a lengthy disclaimer. You know these disclaimers: “May cause dry mouth, constipation, seizures, increased risk of stroke…” Often it seems that the cure is worse than the disease, and while legally the pharmaceutical manufacturers are required to include these disclaimers in their advertising, a laundry list of possible side effects may make people reluctant to try FDA-approved medications. Additionally, the cost of some pharmaceuticals is beyond what many patients are willing or able to pay, and this may cause some to seek different treatment options. These factors may mean that people are more willing to try “natural” remedies as a part of their treatment. Unfortunately, a “natural” remedy may not help, and may in fact worsen the health issue. Not vetted by the FDA While there’s certainly nothing wrong with chicken soup when you have a cold, alternative treatments for many illnesses and diseases can actually do more harm than good. When you choose to forego conventional medicine in favor of alternative therapies, there is a possibility that your illness will worsen. Examples of alternative medicine include megadoses of vitamins, herbal preparations, dietary supplements, herbal teas, use of massage or manual therapies, magnets, nutritional extremes, and spiritual healing. If you examine the labels on some of the various “remedies” and supplements used in alternative medicine, you will see a disclaimer: “This statement has not been evaluated by the FDA. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.” Regardless if the manufacturer makes the claim that a supplement will treat or cure a disease, they must legally include this disclaimer on their label, as the FDA does not evaluate such claims. Only established pharmaceuticals can legally make the claim that they are intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent disease, and only after a thorough process of investigation and testing by the FDA. A brief history of alternative medicine Alternative medicine, ironically enough, was mainstream medicine once upon a time. Ancient societies relied on shamans and healers to treat their illnesses and ailments, and many of the therapies used in alternative medicine today stem from those dark ages. However, as civilization became more sophisticated, and as science developed, many of these treatments were proven to be harmful or ineffective. Modern medicine developed as scientific advances were made, and continues to develop today, while the methods of the old shamans and healers continue to fade into the annals of history. What about “integrated” or “complementary” medicine? Some physicians have expressed a willingness to use alternative treatments alongside the more traditional forms of medicine in use today. These alternative treatments have been proven scientifically to perform just as well as today’s pharmaceuticals, without some of the side effects found with medicines currently in use. Physicians who adapt some forms of alternative medicine into their practice tend to promote this type of treatment as “integrated” or “complementary” medicine, as it supplements the traditional form of medicine in use today. For example, a doctor may determine that a supplement of Vitamin B-12 would be beneficial for a patient undergoing treatment for anemia, and may suggest a certain dosage of this vitamin in addition to the course of treatment the patient is undergoing. The supplemental B-12 would complement the treatment rather than presume to solve the issue as a stand-alone treatment. The difference here is that the supplemental medical treatment is directed by a licensed, board-certified physician whose primary oath to his or her profession is, “first, do no harm.” If it looks like a duck… You may be wondering why aromatherapy or oil-pulling or reflexology seems to work for some people and not others. The answer is best left to the scientific community, because research is ongoing in order to prove or discredit many alternative medicine treatments. So far, no one has cured cancer by using herbs and megadose vitamins and it’s unlikely they will. An editorial in the Journal of American Medical Association in 1998 spells out the medical community’s feelings on the subject of alternative medicine very well: “There is no alternative medicine. There is only scientifically proven, evidence-based medicine supported by solid data or unproven medicine, for which scientific evidence is lacking.” Until the scientific evidence proves the effectiveness of alternative medicine treatments, you would be wise to approach this subject with caution. Please understand that there are no national licensing standards for alternative medicine practitioners, and the requirements for credentials or certifications vary from state to state. Government regulations, licenses, and certificates do not guarantee safe, effective treatment. Also, be aware that some individuals who offer alternative medicine treatments are not licensed in any way to provide medical advice. Sometimes what appears to be quackery is exactly that. Abandoning contemporary medicine in favor of alternative methods can be dangerous and harmful to your long-term health. When it comes to alternative medicine, thoroughly investigate the claims being made and draw your own conclusions. Talk with your doctor. If you choose to use alternative therapies, please involve all of your healthcare professionals, so that they may have a complete picture of the methods being used to maintain or improve your overall health. Finally, if your health has been damaged by alternative medicine, speaking with an experienced attorney can help you to determine whether you have legal recourse.

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| Read Time: 3 minutes | personal injury

The Dangers of Drunk Driving

Most of us have been affected by drunken driving in some way – whether through personal experience or through our acquaintance with someone else’s personal experience – and yet it continues to occur despite our awareness of the problem. In a society where it’s always “5 o’clock somewhere,” the legal ramifications of drinking and driving are well established, and though we know that driving while under the influence is bad, we rationalize such a risky behavior. After all, it’s a fine line between a drink with dinner and being too impaired to safely drive. Measuring BAC BAC, or Blood Alcohol Content, can be measured by breath, blood, and urine tests. The accuracy of these tests is dependent upon a number of factors, and the choice of which test to use is most often based on convenience and portability. The technology available to law enforcement officials allows for a simple assessment in the field using a breath analysis device, more commonly known as a breathalyzer. What is Considered “Drunken” Driving? Most people can tell you what the “legal limit” is in their area. In Indiana, a BAC of at least .08% puts you over the limit. The amount of alcohol you must consume to reach these numbers is dependent on many factors, including (but not limited to) your gender, body weight, and rate/duration of consumption. In short, what puts one person over the limit may not have the same effect on someone else. Drunken Driving and You If you or a loved one has been the victim of a drunk driver, you know the impact firsthand. Every hour of every day, someone is injured or killed in a crash involving an impaired driver. In fact, an average of one in three people will be involved in a drunken driving crash in their lifetime. Those who manage to survive a crash often face long months or years of recovery and may never regain the quality of life they knew before the accident. They may never be able to return to their career, support their family, or care for themselves. For the person convicted of impaired driving, the impact of such a conviction will have far-reaching consequences, beyond incarceration. A DUI/DWI conviction can result in a suspension or surrender of a driver’s license, which can result in loss of employment if a position requires driving as part of the job description. A job search can also be affected, since most employers conduct a criminal background check on potential employees. Even a first-time DUI offense can impact a person’s ability to obtain certain jobs, regardless if that person’s criminal record is otherwise clear. Some colleges and universities refuse admittance to those with a DUI conviction, and certain state certification and licensing entities, such as those for educators or physicians, prohibit certification for individuals with a DUI on their record. And for those whose DUI conviction is classified as a felony, certain rights – such as the right to vote, purchase or possess a firearm, or obtain a passport – are surrendered. The Bottom Line Alcohol affects a person’s judgment, depth perception, and the motor skills necessary to safely operate a vehicle. And while there are many home remedies for overindulgence, the fact is that coffee, cold showers, or exercising do not mitigate the effects of alcohol in a person’s body. The only cure for alcohol consumption is the passage of time. The human body, regardless of gender or weight, metabolizes alcohol at a rate of about one drink per hour. Consuming alcohol at a pace beyond that rate increases the potential for an individual to become a statistic. In fact, more than 10,000 Americans become a statistic to drunken driving each year, and those who survive an alcohol-related accident may never fully recover. While there is some legal recourse for those affected by an impaired driver, decreasing the number of alcohol-related accidents has the ability to positively impact the statistics nationwide. If you or a loved one have been injured by the actions of a drunk driver, it can be to your benefit to talk with an attorney. Gerling has extensive experience in representing persons whose lives have been turned upside down by someone else’s decision to drink and drive.

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