It is a common headline, but when it is somebody famous the point is publicized more. “Jackass” star Ryan Dunn died in a fiery car crash in suburban Philadelphia early Monday morning. Of the more shocking details of this crash include that Mr. Dunn texted a picture of himself drinking not long before the crash, the car left over one hundred feet of skid marks, the car was unrecognizable, for a while the damage left the passenger unrecognizable, the car was travelling well over one hundred miles an hour. Speed Kills. It causes wrongful death and spinal cord injuries, paraplegia, and brain injury, broken bones and leaves families shattered.
It robs us of so much. Where is James Dean, Princess Diana and Harry Chapin?
Speed does not just kill famous people. Our hearts go out to the parents of two young men killed in Muncie, Indiana where authorities believe speed cost the young men their lives. Myles Swoboda, and Jake C. Monroe both suffered wrongful death in a crash involving speeds in excess of 100 miles per hour.
Parents, share these stories with your young drivers, it may save their lives.
Often when someone is injured in a crash or by some other method as a result of someone’s negligence the insurance carrier for the party at fault will come in early and offer a small settlement in exchange for signing a “release”. An injured person who signs the release gives up all of their rights regardless of how seriously they are injured. It does not matter how many medical bills you have or future medical bills you might have because a release stops all responsibility on the party at faults behalf. It is not unusual for someone to come to our office after learning that they are hurt worse than they originally suspected. They might have future medical bills and lost wages that they did not anticipate when they signed the release. The reality is that when they sign the release they lose the right to seek fair compensation. You should never sign a release until you are released from you doctor after a thorough examination and period of time to make sure that you are not more seriously hurt that anticipated. Another problem with signing a release it that you might limit or stop your own health insurance companies duty to pay bills if you release the wrongdoer. You can even limit , reduce or eliminate your ability to make a claim under your uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage if a release is signed too early and without the proper steps being followed. It is always best to consult with a lawyer familiar with this area of law before signing on the dotted line. It is often too late when you come to a lawyers office with a signed release in hand.
The roads are not reserved for the two four wheel variety of transportation. Now that the warm months are upon us, we are seeing more bicycles and motorcycles sharing our roads. This recognition is the first essential in helping to protect our two wheeled Hoosiers. Cyclist are not generally as visible as a car. So, all drivers must keep in mind to be on the lookout for them. Keep in mind that if you hit a cyclist and cause serious personal injury, such as a spinal injury, paraplegia, broken bones or even wrongful death, you may not be able to forgive yourself. Knowing that you have interfered with a fellow Hoosier’s ability to work, earn a living and support their family is a heavy burden.
Sue Ann Vanderbeck is struggling with the guilt and consequences of her negligence this very moment. (Remember, negligence is the failure to use reasonable care, in other words to be on the lookout for a cyclist and avoid impact). On September 30, 2010, at about 12:30 a.m. Mrs. Vanderbeck struck a police officer on a training ride on U.S. 40 west of Knightstown, IN. She left the scene. William Phillips suffered wrongful death as a result of her actions. I am certain that not a moment goes by that Mrs. Vanderbeck does not wish that she could change the events of that night and let Officer Phillips return to his family. Unfortunately for all involved, that is not possible.
Take a lesson from the tragedy of Officer Williams and Mrs. Vanderbeck, keep an extra sharp lookout for cyclists sharing the road. An ounce of prevention prevents a lifetime of guilt, grief and loss.
We all know about drunk driving accidents and how they cause wrongful death and serious personal injury to the victims. I have written several blog entries on the subject of DWI. Given all the attention to automobiles, it is likely that boating while intoxicated may be overlooked. The laws against operating a motor vehicle apply with equal force to motor boats, after all, a motor boat is a motor vehicle. It is illegal to operate a motor vehicle, including a motor boat with a blood alcohol level of .08 or more. It is also illegal to operate a motor boat in an impaired state. The Indiana Department of Natural Resources, and other law enforcement agencies, are charged with the task of enforcing these laws on our state lakes, reservoirs and rivers. That’s right, it is illegal operate a boat on White River in an impaired state. I know it has been more than twenty years ago, but the shock of the accident is still strong. Two boats collided on the white river near the Keystone Bridge in Indianapolis. One boat was taking a slow cruise. The other boat was travelling at a high speed. The fast moving craft road up and over the slower moving vessel and killed a passenger on the slower moving vessel. Alcohol was a factor in the collision.
We recommend that boaters take the same preventative steps as car travelers and designate a designated driver. Bring plenty of water and soft drinks. These soft drinks and water are not only for the designated driver, but are also for the others on the boat. The combination of consuming alcohol in the direct sun will cause dehydration, a dangerous condition. We love to boat. We love to boat with our friends. We love people who take responsibility for their actions by planning ahead and are prepared to protect themselves and all others on the waterways.
Most people do not know it, but there are several different types of benefits under the Social Security umbrella. We as your Indiana Social Security Attorneys are fully aware. The over arching list includes Old Age and Retirement benefits, widows benefits and disability benefits. Of the disability benefits there are two different benefits. The first is Title II Disability, often referred to as SSDI, and the second is Title XVI Supplemental Security Income, also known as SSI. There are similarities between the two. The most important of which is that each use the same criteria to determine whether you are disabled. The difference between the two is mostly economic. The economic requirement for Title II disability is that you have worked 20 out of the 40 quarters prior to your date of disability onset and you have paid either your FICA tax, or your self employment tax. If you meet this criteria, and you are disabled, then you are entitled to Title II. Title II Disability is the better program for disabled people in that there are much fewer restrictions and offsets than are associated with SSI. With SSI, any support you receive from any person is counted as income. This includes the value of the room and board provided by any other person. If you are married, and your spouse works, their income is counted as income to you and reduces your monthly SSI benefits. If the support you receive in the form of room and board, or your spouse’s income is high enough, your SSI benefit may well be reduced to zero.
If you have a question about which benefit to which you may be entitled, contact us.
As most of my regular readers know, I am not fond of people who drink and drive. It is a selfish act, part of that what’s good for me is good way of thinking no matter how it might affect fellow Hoosiers. Well, I can tell you how drunk driving accidents affect your fellow Hoosiers, it causes them to mourn the wrongful death of their loved ones. Drunk driving accidents take parents away from children, including their guidance and their support. Drunk driving accidents take away your fellow Hoosiers ability to walk if they have a spinal cord injury resulting in paraplegia. It takes away their freedom from pain caused by broken bones, burns and amputation. Drunk driving crashes take away a parents hopes for a bright future for their injured or wrongfully killed children.
Well, just when you thought it could not get any worse, a mother takes her small child on a wild drunken ride, resulting g in the car crashing into a house. Cathy Crawley, Greenwood, endangered her child, the Hoosier home owners and herself by drinking and driving. She likely has an alcohol problem she is not dealing with. Her license has already been suspended for life for other infractions. Well, if the proof is strong that Ms. Crawley was drinking and driving on a suspended license with her child in the car, then she is not learning her lesson. We say, take away her liberty before she kills someone. If she cannot control herself, we must control her. That is a real shame, but what else can be done. Ms. Crawley alcohol is already taking you away from your family. Maybe jail will help you understand your issues and make you seek help. We hope so for your sake, for your daughters sake and for all Hoosiers’ sake.
I think it was Eric Burden, as singer with the Animals who sang, “Don’t you play with me, cause your playing with fire”. The song makes a good point. Playing with fire will get you burned. Most people have only a very general understanding of the amount of harm burns cause. Children have no idea the danger they are in. As you know, burns range in severity from first degree (such as a sunburn) to second degree, damage to the top layer of skin causing blisters and third degree which chars several layers of skin. We all know that burns hurt like the dickens, but did you also know that burns heal by creating scar tissue? Scar tissue does not look like uninjured skin. It does not stretch like uninjured skin. It does not grow like uninjured skin and it is very sensitive to heat, ultraviolet rays and other common environmental factors.
Of the many dangers associated with burns is infection. If the burns are over a large percentage of the body, infection is a significant danger that can lead to death.
Some things you can do to protect your family include the placement of smoke detectors in your house. Talk with your children about stop, drop and roll. Have a fire escape plan and practice it with your children. Instruct your children to never go back into a burning home and have a designated meeting place outside the home to meet so that everyone will know who is missing. Talk to your children about playing with matches and the dangers. Know where all power lines are into the home and if they travel through trees, make sure the kids stay out of that tree. One of the hidden dangers of putting gas on a pile you intend to ignite is the fumes from the gas. You cannot see them but they are all around you. If you are close to the fire when the match is struck, you will find yourself within the flames of the fumes.
Be safe with fire because medical science is not advanced enough to put you back the way you were before the burns.
Again, I was riding my bike to work today. A part of my route gives me two options. Neither option has bike lanes. The first option is to ride south on Pennsylvania Street from 16th street to Ohio. Pennsylvania is a one way south with four lanes and is a busy artery into the city from the north side. The other route is Delaware Street. Delaware Street, south of 16th street is also a four lane street, but it is a one way north. It had 8 foot wide sidewalks and in the morning is not really heavily travelled. I choose to take the Delaware Street route because it is less congested and I think is safer than the Pennsylvania Street route. I have noticed a few things about this decision that I would like to share. The first is that when cars come to Delaware Street, whether they are coming out of a parking lot, a street or an alley, the driver inevitably looks only to the south (the direction from which car traffic is traveling). At first I was kinds put off by this. Then it occurred to me that this was only natural because that is the only direction the driver expects a hazard my come from. Given this fact, whenever I come to an intersection or any outlet on to Delaware Street, I always yield to the car. I never pass in front of them because I know they probably with not look for me. Those who do look, always look startled to see me waiting for them to pass. This surprise always gives way to a thankful smile as I waive them on. It is a little curtsey that has saved my butter on many occasions.
When I ride south on Delaware, I ride on the sidewalk when traffic is so close that we may pass. If I ride on the road the drivers do not seem to know what to expect from me. I think they think that if I am crazy enough to ride south on a one way north street, I may be capable of doing anything. They give me weird looks and sometimes the looks are hostile. I think that to be safe, I want the driver to believe that my actions are going to be predictable. To this end, I ride on the sidewalk when cars are coming at me. If there are people on the sidewalk, I slow down, give them the right of way at all times and make sure they are aware I am there with an audible signal. Pedestrians appreciate knowing what is going to happen the same as a driver does. If the sidewalks were not so wide on Delaware Street, I may have to choose another route, but they are wide, and with a little courtesy, my rides are accident free.
Yesterday, I was coming back to our serious injury offices in Indianapolis, from Richmond. We just concluded a significant hearing. I was travelling west on I-70 near the Keystone interchange (Mile marker 83.5, just east of the I-65-I-70 split). At that location, I-70 is five lanes wide. I was in the second lane from the right. (I was travelling the speed limit, but there is not much of that at that location). There was a small car to my right. My front bumper was just about even with his back bumper. I was in his blind spot. He put on his left turn signal and immediately started to move into my lane. He obviously did not know I was there and did not bother to turn his head to look before moving over. There were cars immediately to my left so I could not move left. Although there was a car on my tail I hit the brakes and the car moved into my lane with about ten feet to spare.
To my surprise, he just kept moving left. The car to my left hit the brakes and the merging car barely missed him, then his luck ran out. The merging car kept on going, but in the next lane was a semi tractor-trailer. The semi cannot slow as efficiently as a car and the merging car hit the semi on the passenger front corner. The merging car was suddenly fully in front of the semi being pushed down the road. The driver of the merging car could only see the grill of the semi as he looked left. Unfortunately both the semi and the merging car were not only moving down the road, they were also merging into the left lane. An SUV clipped either the merging cars front or the semi’s front lost control and started to roll. The SUV landed on the wheels. I do not know what happened to the merging car. I pulled over, called 911 reported the collision, gave the State Police my name and telephone number. I thought about going back to the scene, but many, many people had already stopped to help and I was on the opposite side of the highway from where they all came to a stop, so to reach the scene I would have had to cross three lanes of traffic, which oddly enough barely seemed to slow down.
The point of this story is that we want to you to be careful when merging into another lane. Every car has a blind spot. To properly merge you must signal your intent and then look to make sure no one is in your blind spot. If the merging car, in my story, had followed this simple rule, there would have been no collision and several families would have made it home safe.
We have spoken of them in the past, retention ponds. You see them in every new development. They are ponds purposely placed by builders to control water flow and flooding. Sometimes they are attractive and sometimes they are scars in the ground, but always they are dangerous. Several months ago a teenager, leaving a party drove into a retention pond and suffered wrongful death. Even sadder was that he was listed as missing for several days because no one saw the car enter the pond and the car sank below the top of the pond. Yesterday, a frightening but injury free crash involved a retention pond. A car with two women entered a retention pond near the Church of Acts in the 3700 block of South Dearborn. A quick thinking teenager, Olivia Martin waded into the pond, which was about five feet deep and rescued those in the car. Her quick thinking may have saved the passengers’ lives.
Remember a couple things about cars and water. Do not panic. The car will float for a few minutes giving you time to plan. Because the water on the outside of the car is heavy and is pushing against your door, it will not be possible to open the door until the car fills with water. If this is the only way out, stay calm as the water fills the car, then open the door and swim out. Most retention ponds are less than 10 feet deep, giving you opportunity to reach the surface and swim to shore. Remember, if the car ignition is still on, the electrical system is still on. This mean the electric windows will still operate. If you choose this route of escape, when the window is lowered, water will rush in and will block your exit until the water fills most of the car. As hard as it will be to wait, do so. Fighting the rush of water will only cause you to tire and will not be effective. You will need your energy to swim, save it. Some companies sell a hammer like device to allow you to break a window to get out. If you use this method, you will also have a rush of water into the car when the window is broken. Don’t panic, wait and when the car fills swim out. All this is easy to say when the panic is not upon you, but if you mentally prepare, you will have a better chance of survival.
About Pools: Designate someone to be the eyes on the pool, more than one is better. Do not talk to that person while they are working. Children die in the blink of an eye. An 8 year old girl died in a Brownsburg pool when 50 or more people were standing by, apparently no one designated to watch the pool. Our sympathies go out to the family of Aalayah L. Willis. Please do not let another precious child out of sight. Watch those pools.
I have been representing Hoosiers in their claims for Social Security Disability Benefits for more than 23 years. Over that time I have run into several people who have rare diseases that cause them to be disabled. These diseases are just as problematic as the diseases we all know about such as cancer, so why do they cause issues when you have a claim for disability benefits? The answer is in the regulations of the Social Security Administration. The first question asked is the claimant working. If the answer is no, the next question is does the claimant have a severe medical impairment. The third step is whether the impairment meets a listing. The fourth step is if the impairment does not meet a listing the Social Security Administration determines the claimants residual functional capacity ( a fancy way of saying what the body can still do despite its impairments). Finally, the fifth step is to determine whether there are any jobs in the national economy the claimant can still do despite the impairment. The precise cite to the controlling law is 20 C.F.R. Sec. 404.1520. (CFR stands for Code of Federal Regulations).
I want to talk about the second step. I know you are asking yourself what are these impairments. Well, the answer is again in the regulations. The Social Security Administration, with the help of medical experts, has created a list of medical conditions that they call impairments. We call them the listings, for short. They are a list of injuries, illnesses and diseases. If the claimant has one of these injuries illnesses or diseases, AND the symptoms are severe enough, the claimant will be found to be disabled. The exact cite for the Lists is 20 CFR 404, Subpart P. Appendix 1. The general categories for the listings are Musculoskeletal, Special Senses and speech, Cardiovascular, Digestive, Genitourinary, Hematological, Skin, Endocrine, Multiple Body Systems, Neurological, Mental, Cancer, Immune system. As you might guess, the listing include the more common problems. So what Happens when you have one of the rarer diseases that is not listed in the Listings?
Again we have to look at the rules. In this case we have to look specifically at 20 CFR Sec. 404.1526, Medical Equivalence. If your impairment is medically equivalent to a listed disease in severity and duration. You will be found to be disabled. The SSA uses 3 ways to determine medical equivalence. This is a rather complicated process that requires consideration of the rules and your medical records. If you find that you have a disease, and it is not a common problem, give me a call. I will sit down with you, look at your records and let you know what I think about whether your impairment is medically equivalent to the listings.