We’re all guilty of checking our cell phones for messages, missed calls and social media updates while driving. As tempting as this action can be, it’s one which comes with a lot of risk. Recently, The National Safety Council has found that as many as two in three drivers pulling into shopping centers, parking garages, and parking lots are distracted. And further, that one in five accidents happens while in these locations.

The leading culprit for such collisions is cell phones. One researcher involved in the study says many people understand the risks associated with using a phone while on a highway or busy road. But in a parking lot, they’re going much slower and this speed offers a “false sense of security.” It’s true that a driver’s speed is significantly less than main roads; even so, the consequences have proven to be deadly.

In October, 2016, 24-year-old Maria Cruz Gonzales-Cortes was pushing her 15-month-old baby in a stroller across the parking lot of a laundry mat. Video footage shows a distracted driver striking the mother and child, killing Ms. Cortes. The baby survived and is being cared for by family members.

The November 22 Tennessee bus accident which left 6 children dead and critically injured 23 more has impacted every family within the state. Now, families of the children who lost their lives have discovered they can receive no more than $750,000 in personal damages.

Modifications to the Tennessee tort reform law in 2011 limited payouts in any personal injury claim against doctors and other relevant businesses. This law, says Tennessee bus accident lawyers, will likely apply to the families considering a civil lawsuit against the Durham School Services and district. The driver of the bus, 24 year old Johnthony Walker, lost control crashing into a tree and telephone pole. Chattanooga police have said Mr. Walker has been charged with six counts of vehicular homicide, reckless endangerment and reckless driving.

Mr. John Robert Williams Jr., was recently awarded 3.4 million dollars in a jury trial. A crane operator, he had filed a lawsuit after suffering a severe brain injury and becoming blind. This construction accident occurred when he was operating a crane in tandem with another crane operator. At the time, they were working to move a ship’s bow. Following orders, he stopped his crane while the other crane continued to operate. Immediately his crane began to tip and he had to go about trying to right it. Unfortunately, what happened next led to lifelong injuries.

The 18,000 pound counterweights flew up and hit his cab. This propelled him out of the cab and threw him onto the ground where he landed with such force that he suffered a brain injury and became blind. This tragic accident did not need to occur.

The lawsuit claimed, and a jury agreed, that the crane manufacturer, Manitowoc Cranes LLC in Wisconsin, was to blame because proper warning was not given about how the counterweights could come loose and hit the cab. With no warning, Mr. Williams was unaware of the danger to his life and the need to escape the cab quickly. If he had been warned, he could have jumped out of the cab prior to becoming hit by the counterweights.

Great news for families with loved ones in nursing homes or long-term care facilities. A new rule has been issued by the Department of Health and Human Services that will allow for patients in these facilities to file a lawsuit if something goes wrong. This is a drastic departure from what has been the status quo. Traditionally, most nursing home facilities require patients and their families to sign a contract that states any dispute must be resolved quietly through forced arbitration. The arbitration process is designed to keep costs down but it also keeps things quiet. Now, victims will have the opportunity to go to the traditional route by filing a lawsuit.  This is fantastic news for any patients and their families that have been frustrated by the system.

To understand why this matters, you must know more about arbitration. In arbitration, both sides hire an attorney and the case is heard by an arbitrator who is typically a retired judge or an attorney with extensive experience. There is no jury and the proceedings are completely private. Both sides present information to the arbitrator and then the arbitrator will ask questions until they have reached a conclusion.  At this point they will enter a decision. With forced and binding arbitration, whatever the arbitrator decides is final. This can be problematic because you cannot appeal. In a trial, if one party is not satisfied with the decision or feels that something was done to infringe upon their rights or there was bias against them, an appeal can be made and the case can be heard by a new judge. This is not true of arbitration. If an arbitrator is biased or something is done incorrectly during the proceedings, there is typically no way to appeal and the decision will stand.

Preventing forced arbitration clauses in contracts is an important way to ensure that the elderly and their families have all options available to them and can take advantage of their full legal rights. This ruling is effective November, 2016. However, not everyone will be impacted by it. Nursing homes and facilities that do not accept Medicare or Medicaid do not need to abide by this new rule. Additionally, it does not change any existing contracts but will impact new ones. This is important for you to know because if you signed a contract in August, for example, you may still be under a forced arbitration clause. However, if you were to move your loved one to a new facility, their contracts should be under the new rule which would allow you to file a lawsuit in the event of a problem.

The recent bus crash in Tennessee has once again renewed the debate about whether or not school buses should be fitted with seat belts. Regardless of such accidents being uncommon, the U.S. government’s top safety regulator, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), has spoken out saying all school busses should have seat belts. California, Florida, Louisiana, New Jersey, New York and Texas all have laws which mandate seat belts on school buses; Tennessee is not yet one of these. Furthermore, 17 states have introduced seat belt bills, but none has passed. This could be attributed to the price figure estimate of $7,000 – $10,000 per bus. With over 480,000 public school buses on the road, carrying over 25 million children, these costs could exceed the billion dollar mark. After the collision, many people are hoping for a federal mandate.

Most recently, NHTSA administrator Mark Rosekind said “We know that seat belts will save lives if we put one for every kid on every school bus.”  However, in the past, the same association, along with the National Association for Pupil Transportation (NAPT) has said they’re not convinced seat belts would increase safety. Likewise, The National PTA and The American Academy of Pediatrics have remained in favor of all school buses being fitted with seat belts for children. Both have voiced concerns that the message of “buckle up for safety” should remain consistent across all vehicles both private and public. Donald Carnahan, NAPT President, counters the statement by saying “Seat belts in cars and lap belts on school buses are completely different safety issues.”

The National Coalition for Seatbelts on School Buses, an advocacy organization, has noted several reasons to take the precautionary measure; some of which may include:

October is a time of year in which the leaves start to change color and Tennessee residents start to pull out their autumn jackets. This time of year has also been set aside to acknowledge America’s seniors and the contributions they have made to every future generation to come.  The National Long-Term Care Residents Rights Month aims to bring focus to seniors living in elderly care or nursing homes; enabling people to remember and value each and every one of these people. In addition to this, the commemorative month is meant to encourage seniors, and their loved ones, to remember their rights and their voice. Through this direct involvement and say from the resident’s themselves, long term facilities may be able to operate more effectively while building a reputation they can be proud of.

My Vote Matters Theme

Each year, The National Long-Term Care Residents Rights Month follows a theme. This year’s theme was ‘My Vote Matters’, and was chosen to garner attention to resident’s and their retention of voting rights, regardless of where they live or what kind of care they receive. The importance of this greatly exceeds many other important events for it reminds people that a seniors’ vote could impact the very laws and regulations which encompass long term resident homes.

Deborah Giannecchini, 62, had been using J&Js’ baby talcum powder as feminine hygiene for 4 decades. However, in 2012 she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and claimed the baby powder was the cause. After hiring a talcum powder lawyer, a lawsuit was filed for compensatory damages due to negligence, and a recommendation for the company to have to attach warnings onto the product.

Only recently, the jury sitting of Mrs. Giannecchinis’ case, ruled in her favor. Her award settlement totaled $70 million; $65 million in punitive damages from J&J with a further $2.5 million for medical costs, pain and suffering. J&Js co-defendant Imerys Talc America, and supplier of the talc, are also required to pay $2.5 million to her. Johnson & Johnson says they sympathize with Mrs. Giannecchini’s situation; however, they went on to say “We will appeal today’s verdict because we are guided by the science, which supports the safety of Johnson’s Baby Powder.”

Alongside military service, being part of a jury is considered to be one of the most important civil responsibilities of an adult American citizen. The U.S. legal system is founded upon multiple rights including that of the right to a trial by jury. Found in the Bill of Rights and the Seventh Amendment to the United States Constitution, this right is a primary difference between the American legal systems and those of other countries. A trial by jury compromises of 12 ordinary citizens (sometimes less) who are obliged to show up for jury duty and serve on a jury in civil or criminal.

Serving on a jury is an incredible opportunity to participate in the legal process of governance, and to better understand how things work. Unlike having the choice to vote, jury duty is mandatory rather than discretionary. It’s understandable to have concerns when you’re summoned for jury duty. You may even wonder how you can get out of it. Although jury duty could impose a heavy burden upon your life, it’s recommended to put forth your best effort when served. For when you fulfill this civil duty, you may be appreciated with gratitude from the court system and government as a whole. Moreover, you may walk away from the final day of jury duty with an enlightening sense of legal knowledge and a regard for the rights of the American people.

Sudden, Sharp Increases in Premiums for Certain Types of Life Insurance Policies

For those who hold life insurance policies with variable premiums, beware of sudden, sharp increases in premium rates. If you have suffered financial hardship to keep up with the premiums or if you have defaulted on the policy because the cash value is depleted or because you cannot pay the premiums, you may have a claim. Contact The Higgins Firm for help.

Universal Life Insurance: Peace of Mind or Risky Investment Product?

The most important decision you can make in your case is hiring the right accident attorney. With so many out there to choose from, this is harder than it can seem. It is critical that you hire someone who is experienced at representing accident victims and negotiating directly with the insurance companies. This will put you at an advantage when it comes to settlement negotiations or if you need to go to court.

The biggest thing that you need to remember is that the insurance company has a team of skilled attorneys on their side. They know what to do in order to keep the settlement low and will do whatever they can to pay you as little as possible. You need an equally skilled accident attorney, on your side, to ensure that you are treated fairly and get as much money as possible. This is not the time to hire a novice lawyer or someone who rarely deals with insurance companies. With your future on the line, you want the very best attorney you can find.

There are several things you can do to ensure that you hire the best attorney for your particular situation. They include –

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