There is a dirty little secret about drunk driving accidents in Indiana. Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) has done a tremendous job educating the public about the dangers of drunk driving accidents. Drunk Driving Accidents cause serious personal injury and wrongful death. Its affects reach to the families who lose their loved ones or who must become caregivers to those no longer able to do for themselves because of the injuries caused by drunk driving accidents. As we all know, a drunk driver is not a responsible member of society and may not have enough insurance to pay for the harm they cause. That is why, at Young and Young, we recommend that you make sure you have at least enough in “Medical Payments Insurance” to pay the deductible on your health insurance policy. This protects you against out of pocket expenses. Second, we recommend that you purchase as much Uninsured Motorist Coverage/Underinsured Motorist Coverage AS YOU CAN AFFORD. This insurance will pay for the damages you have, but for which the drunk driver does not have enough insurance to cover your losses and harms.
Now for the dirty little secret. You probably know that bars can be held responsible for harm to a person if they serve a person alcohol who is visibly intoxicated, and that person drives off from the bar and causes serious personal injury or wrongful death. What you don’t know is that the bars are not required to maintain insurance which will pay for your damages if the bar serves a visibly intoxicated person and that person causes a drunk driving accident. We do not have statistics as to how many bars do and do not carry this coverage, but we do know that a substantial number of bars do not carry such insurance. This means that the injuries you suffer at the hands of the drunk driver who was over served at a bar will fall to you and your family. The bar continues to make money, but you can’t work, you have huge medical bills and your family suffers. We do not think this is right. You may say, well isn’t it really the drunk drivers fault? And the answer is that the drunk driver is to blame, but, if the drunk is in the bar, and is visibly intoxicated, they must not be served and caused to become even more drunk. We encourage all bars to car liability insurance which will cover the harms caused by this kind of negligence. We also encourage bars to properly train their employees to take seriously their obligation to identify visibly intoxicated persons, and not serve them.
As an Indiana serious Personal Injury Lawyer, representing injured Hoosiers all over the State of Indiana out of our Indianapolis personal injury law offices, I often hear from my prospective clients, people who have been seriously injured by the negligence of others, “I am not sue happy, I just want what is fair.” Initially I tell my clients, some of whom are still in the hospital when I see them, bedridden with broken bones, brain injury, spinal cord injury, burn s and dog bites, that most Hoosiers are not sue happy. Most Hoosiers just want what’s fair. I tell them that their concern over being “sue happy” is the result of vested interests in making people feel that if they asking for what’s fair they are sue happy. I mean really, who stands to gain if people are afraid of being sue happy, so they do not make a claim. I will tell you, it is the insurance industry. Have you ever looked around your town at whose names are on the biggest buildings? In my town it is insurance companies. Why, because they make money hand over fist, They make even more money if they can convince honest people that they are sue happy for asking what’s fair. I know there are a lot of lawyers advertising on TV and it reflects very poorly on all of us as a profession. However, compare the amount of lawyer advertising with the number of Allstate, Progressive, State Farm, etc. you see on TV. And do not be fooled, lawyers are not spending as much as beer and car companies to sponsor college bowl games.
So whenever you hear anyone say your insurance rates are too high because of lawsuits, ask them where they gets their facts. My guess is they will be able to give you no facts. They will simply spout back what they have heard or read from untrustworthy sources. Then think, well wouldn’t my rates be lower if the companies were not spending so much on TV advertising, sponsoring car races and bowl games? Resist the urge to follow the crowd. Demand proof. Defend your mother, who I know taught you to make up for any harm you do. If you spill the milk, clean it up. If you break a window, fix it or pay to have it fixed. If you do not use care in your life and it causes injury to another- Drunk driving, failing to stop at a stop sign, build a scaffold wrong, make up for the harm by demanding that your insurance company does right by the person who was hurt. Demand the insurance company does right by the injured person’s family.
I have been representing seriously injured Hoosiers for 23 years. We handle all different types of automobile collision cases. One thing that is common to most collisions, whether they be automobile crashes, truck crashes, or semi tractor-trailer crashes is impaired sight. We see serious personal injury arise out of drivers not seeing motorcyclists and turning into their path. Many times people will not look over their left shoulder to check their blind spot, enter the lane to their left and hit the car properly in that lane. People turning right at an intersection will look to their left to see if there are any oncoming car, but forget to look back to the right to see if there is a pedestrian.
.A couple of tips can help you drive safely. Make sure you have a scraper in your car so you can clear all the ice off your front, rear and side windows You have seen the guy driving with just a small area of the windshield cleared and none of the other windows cleared. This guy will run into something, because he can’t see. Keep plenty of washer fluid in the reservoir. Salt on the road builds up fast on the wind screen. When the sun hits that salt, you are blind. This is especially true when you are driving on the highway with the spray from large trucks covering your wind screen. Make sure you do not have any signs impairing your rear sight line.
Being able to see reduces the risk of causing a collision and seriously injuring, or causing the wrongful death, of your fellow Hoosiers.
We all know that Jets have a “Black Box” that is the subject of intense searching after any plane crash. The reason for the “black box” search is because the “black box” is a data recorder. It records information about the operation of the jet and its pilots and can help investigators reconstruct the events leading up to a crash and will, hopefully, assist investigators in figuring out what happened. Fewer people know that all modern cars are equipped with a “black box” or more particularly a data recorder. In automobile crashes causing serious personal injury, the data recording device may be the difference between knowing what actually happened in the crash and what witnesses say happened in the crash.
In my line of work as a auto accident attorney, we know that eye witness accounts of a collision often vary greatly about what happened in the car accident. Scientific studies. Barbara Tversky, in her article “The Problem with Eyewitness Testimony”, Stanford Journal of Legal Studies, April 1999, observed, “The mere fault of being human results in distorted memory and inaccurate testimony.” We humans are subject to memory bias and the introduction of false memories which interfere with our ability to accurately remember and repeat exactly what we have seen. So, what can be done about this problem? Retrieve the information from the data recording device for the cars, or trucks involved in the collision.
Modern automobile data recording devices record up to 20 seconds of information before any crash. The data recorded can include whether the passengers of the car were wearing seatbelts, the car speed at any point in that 20 seconds, the acceleration of the car in that 20 seconds, the percent of the engine throttle and gas pedal, when the brakes were activated, when the antilock braking device was activated and more. This information is very important, but any accident expert worth their salt will collect all the objective evidence at the scene of the car crash and compare it to the data on the recording device. The objective evidence includes the damage to each car, the final resting place of the cars after the impact, the direction the cars went upon impact, and other information. When the “black box” data matches up with the objective evidence at the scene of the collision the jury can be very confident that the data recording device is telling the accurate story about what happened in the crash. This is very important when eyewitnesses give contradicting versions of what happened.
Normally when we talk about brain injury, we talk about it in the context of serious personal injury from, for example, drunk driving accidents, large truck accident, construction accident and highway accidents. I want to talk today about brain injury in the context of the Social Security Administration’s guidelines for disability. You will remember from our previous discussions that there are two sets of rules used to determine whether a person is entitled to disability benefits; The Listings and The Medical Vocational Guidelines (The Grids). The listing specifically contains a listing for Brain Injury. It is in the Neurological section, Listing 11.18, Cerebral Trauma. As we also know medical documentation is crucial to establishing eligibility for disability. For brain injury, medical documentation of the acute phase (early on in the recovery) is usually easy to provide. However, ongoing evidence of treatment in the post acute phase of recovery is also essential.
This next part is for my readers who treat brain injury. You can be of great assistance to your patient if, when you are asked to provide a report documenting your opinions about the patient’s ability to work, you write the report to include references to the medical record that support your opinions and conclusions. Unsupported opinions carry little weight with the Social Security Administration. Even if your opinions are dead on accurate, if they are not supported by corresponding references to the record, you might as well have not taken the time to write the report. Please take your time when you write that report. An accurate report to the SSA is very important to your patient’s well being.
Brain injury which causes severe neurological affect, i.e. paralysis, dysphasia, severe executive dysfunction, etc are fairly straight forward in terms of proof. It is the brain injury which has responded well to treatment, but still leaves the survivor with subtle issues such as fatigue, short term memory loss and the need for increased completions times. These survivors also face the well known prejudice, “They look okay, they must be okay”. For these survivors, the report may well be the most important piece of evidence. I also suggest letters from failed work attempt employers and or failed class teachers. Many times survivor’s recoveries are significant, and relative to their immediate post injury condition, the patient is doing very well. This, however, does not always mean the patient is back to their pre injury function or that they can return to employment. So, doctors, you must explain in your reports that although the patient has improved significantly, that does not mean they are employable in a competitive job. You must point out why this is using references to your medical records. Otherwise it is too easy for the SSA to say, well they look good and the doc says they are much improved, they must be able to work.
Last year, in January and February, we had a series of ice storms that left thick ice on everything. Hospital emergency rooms were stretched to their limits with falls on ice resulting in broken bones, spinal cord injuries, severe strains, brain injuries, torn rotator cuffs and more. Thank goodness that this year we have not had to battle the ice yet. However, there is something about the law in the City of Indianapolis regarding sidewalks and snow and ice. Every property owner in the city is required to keep the sidewalks next to their property clear of snow and ice. If the property owner does not keep the snow and ice clear of snow and ice, they may be subject to fines. This law, however, creates no duty on the part of the landowner to keep the sidewalk clear for the benefit of pedestrians. If you encounter ice on a city sidewalk, left by a property owner, who has done nothing to clear it, do not think that they will be responsible for their actions. The law does not require them to clear it for anyone but the City.
The Social Security Administration requires that a claimant supply medical information to support the claim for Social Security Disability Payments and Supplemental Security Payments. This means that if you have a disabling condition, but you have not sought medical treatment, or the medical testing does not demonstrate a medical condition which would likely be causing the disabling condition, your chances of obtaining Disability benefits are markedly reduced. This poses a very difficult problem for those who are uninsured and have little or no funds to pay for medical treatment. Fortunately Medicaid is available to help obtain medical care. In Marion County Wishard Hospital offers care for the poor. Unfortunately the Medicaid program is overburdened as is the Wishard facility. This causes delay in obtaining medical care, and thus cause delay in obtaining medical evidence which will support a disability claim.
If you are fortunate enough to have insurance and have medical documentation of a disabling condition, the medical records alone may not be enough to prove your claim. In the case of chronic pain, or a brain injury, or chronic fatigue, often times the effect of the condition on the body is more severe than conventional testing can detect. In the case of pain, there is generally no objective test to support the claim. Thus the Administrative Law Judge will be forced to make a decision about whether he/she finds the claimant’s complaints “Credible”. The first step in this process is to determine whether the claimant has proof of a medically determinable impairment. The next step is to determine what symptoms, including pain, the impairment(s) is likely to produce. The third step is to determine what limitations the impairment(s) is likely to produce in terms of ability to lift, walk, sit, and stand. The next step is to obtain information from the claimant, in the form of testimony y, doctors records and test results. The ALJ compares the medical report information with the claimant’s testimony to see if they are consistent. If they are consistent, your credibility goes up. If they are inconsistent your credibility goes down. Being given less than full credibility can result in you being denied your benefits. The lesson here is to be fully honest with your doctors and the Administration. In that case, your credibility will likely go up and improve your chances of obtaining your disability benefits.
As your Indianapolis Social Security Lawyer, with more than 23 years of experience representing claimants before the Social Security Administration, I am always asked, “Do I need a lawyer to file my initial claim?” My answer is probably considered a typical lawyer answer, and that is it depends. If you are confident in dealing with bureaucrats, or are handy on the computer, and have reasonably good organizational skills then I would say you probably do need a lawyer for the initial application. If you are a little skittish, have memory problems or organizational issues, then it may be a good idea to have help at this phase.
There are a few ways to apply. In no particular order, you can apply online, over the phone or through an in person interview. If you require the assistance of a lawyer in applying I would assist you in applying on line. The Social Security Administration website is easy to use and helpful. You can access the site at www.ssa.gov. On the first screen there is a pull down tab for your application. Click on this tab and away you go. If you go to your local SSA office, you will apply in person. These folks are generally helpful and take some of the worry out of the application process. The down side is that you have to leave your home and the lines at these locations can be problematic.
No matter what method you choose to use, a few preparations will make the process less stressful. Make four lists. 1. List of medical care providers with addresses. 2. List of Medications with side effects. 3. List of all illnesses, injuries or diseases which cause you to be disabled, and finally, a list of your employers for the last 15 years. This is essential information that might escape you at the time of application.