It’s a sport born in Europe, and now it’s making waves in Northeast Florida. What makes this sport so special is that anybody can play.
A recent survey by the US Department of Veterans Affairs shows that one in four women said they experienced sexual harassment or assault while serving in our nation’s military. It’s an infuriating issue made all the more serious by the fact that female veterans today represent the military’s fastest-growing population. Women vets number upward of 2.2 million – a full 10 percent of America’s veterans.
Despite these numbers, VA clinics, hospitals and benefits staff have been inexcusably slow not only in granting disability benefits due female veterans suffering from sex assault-related issues including PTSD, but in fully adjusting to the rising number of military women. For instance, advocacy groups report that some VA health centers only recently opened women’s restrooms and that women seeking treatment at these centers routinely are asked if they’re waiting for their husbands or simply lost. A full third of VA medical centers lack an on-staff gynecologist and 31 percent lack staff needed to provide adequate treatment for sexual assault, according to reports by Disabled American Veterans and the Institute of Medicine.
Increased activism by and on behalf of the nations’ female military veterans over the past few years has affected some change. The Pentagon launched a high-profile campaign to prevent sexual attacks on servicewomen and to punish offenders. Earlier this month, the VA announced it would expand mental health services to reservists and National Guard members who were sexually assaulted while on inactive duty. And earlier this year, the government nixed a requirement that military members produce proof that they were assaulted or harassed before receiving health care.
VA Secretary Robert McDonald says the department is additional steps to address the issue. These include asking each veteran during intake whether they suffered a sex assault or trauma; hiring more doctors, therapist and social workers who have experience in military sex assault issues; and increasing staff responsible for helping female veterans to better navigate the disability claims process.
“VA simply must be an organization that provides comprehensive care for all veterans dealing with the effects of military sexual trauma,” McDonald told reporters recently. “Our range of services for [military sexual trauma]-related experiences are constantly being reexamined to best meet the needs of our veterans.”
VA officials say they’re re-reviewing scores of cases of alleged military sex assault and are encouraging female veterans who previously had been denied benefits for treatment of related PTSD to reapply.
Despite the progress and improvement, the claim filing process for treatment of military sex assault-related PTSD and other lasting injuries remains a difficult, often confusing and potentially long one. To help assure that you get fair and timely compensation, call 800-251-1111 and speak with an experienced VA disability benefits attorney with Jacksonville’s Harrell and Harrell today.
This week’s team keeps the memory alive of our military heroes from the greatest generation. You might have seen a B. 17 flying over Jacksonville a couple of weeks ago, known as the flying fortress it started production in the 30′s then saw a lot of service in World War II particularly in Germany.
The turn of the New Year brings several new Florida laws, including one that boosts the state’s minimum wage from $7.93 to $8.05 effective January 1 and benefitting some 360,000 low-wage workers. But that’s not all. Another new law is getting far less media attention, but potentially can have a major impact on companies and employees in the Sunshine State.
Effective New Year’s Day and mandated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), employers nationwide are required to notify the agency when an employee is killed on the job within eight hours and to report any work-related hospitalization, amputation or loss of an eye within 24 hours. Prior to enactment of the new reporting mandates, OSHA only required employers to report work-related deaths and hospitalizations of three or more employees. Single hospitalizations, amputations or eye losses were not required.
In 2013, 4,405 workers were killed on the job and more than 3 million private industry employees were reported to have suffered work-related injuries or illnesses, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“Workplace injuries and fatalities are absolutely preventable, and these new requirements will help OSHA focus its resources and hold employers accountable for preventing them,” US Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez said earlier this year.
“Hospitalizations and amputations are sentinel events, indicating that serious hazards are likely to be present at a workplace and that an intervention is warranted to protect the other workers at the establishment,” added Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health.
The new rule also updates the list of employers that are partially exempt from OSHA record-keeping requirements due to relatively low occupational injury and illness rates. These include establishments in specific low hazard retail, service, finance, insurance or real estate industries. Firms with more than 10 employees and those not classified as a partially exempt industry must record all work-related injuries and illnesses using OSHA Forms 300, 300A and 301, available on the agency’s website.
As a current or former employee who suffered an injury or loss on the job, you have the right, personally or via a representative, to access a company’s injury and illness records – something that may be needed in the case of a workers’ compensation lawsuit filed on your behalf. Employers must provide copies of all relevant records by the end of the next business day.
If you are injured at work or if you’ve lost a loved one to a workplace incident, contact Jacksonville’s Harrell and Harrell at 800-251-1111 today. We specialize in helping injured workers and their families throughout Florida and Georgia to secure fair compensation for all work-related losses.
This week’s TOTW is the Leeds “Rhinos” Rugby team from England who crossed the ditch to train with the Jacksonville Axemen. They aim to raise awareness for the sport state-side.
The heartbreaking death of a child has prompted Fiat Chrysler (formerly the Chrysler Group) to recall approximately 67,000 pickup trucks with manual transmissions, citing a problem with the clutch.
In May, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) launched an investigation into a fatal incident in which a child inadvertently started a 2006 Dodge Ram 3500 pickup truck without using the clutch. The truck moved forward, striking and killing another child.
NHTSA investigators found that a spring wire in the clutch ignition interlock switch can break in trucks with manual transmissions. This can result in a vehicle not starting or cause it to move unintentionally once the ignition key is turned. Models affected in the recall all are manual transmission pickup trucks from the 2006 and 2007 model years and were manufactured between July 1, 2005 and July 31, 2006. They include:
- Dodge Ram 1500 trucks
- Dodge Ram 2500 trucks
- Dodge Ram 3500 trucks
- Dodge Dakota trucks
- Mitsubishi Raider trucks
Fiat Chrysler will begin notifying registered owners of vehicles affected in the recall in February. Until then, the company stresses that drivers should follow recommended procedures for starting their vehicles.
“These procedures include activating the vehicle’s parking brake, placing its shift lever in the neutral position and pressing the clutch pedal before turning the ignition key,” the company advised in a media release.
If you own or drive one of the recalled trucks and have suffered an injury or loss that you believe was caused by the defective clutch wire, get medical treatment and call a product liability attorney with Jacksonville’s Harrell and Harrell at 800-251-1111. If you’ve suffered no injuries and will continue to drive your truck, take extra caution and be sure to stop by your nearest Fiat Chrysler dealership for a free-of-charge repair.
Multiple major players in the automotive industry recently met in Detroit, revving up a collaborative effort to take Japanese airbag manufacturer Takata to task over fatal defects in their products. Representatives from at least seven auto makers including BMW, Chrysler, Ford, Honda, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan and Subaru convened to discuss hiring a third-party engineering firm to investigate issues with the faulty airbags that thus far have been linked to five deaths and scores of injuries nationwide.
At the time of this writing, more than 20 million vehicles outfitted with Takata-made airbags have been recalled, and more than half of those affected are registered to owners here in the United States. In multiple incidents, the airbags ruptured, sending sharp-edged shrapnel flying throughout a vehicle’s cabin. This inflicted serious and even fatal stab-like wounds in drivers’ face, neck and chest areas.
At the center of the issue are suspicions that the ruptures were caused by a switch to a chemical compound known as ammonium nitrate used in airbag inflators. Though it costs more than the chemical agent used in older airbags, ammonium nitrate allowed for the manufacture of smaller, more lightweight airbags. Unfortunately, it appears that it may also be causing airbags to inflate too powerfully, essentially turning components of the airbag casing into dangerous shrapnel.
Multiple investigations by various agencies suggest that Takata knew of the issue for upward of a decade and deliberately hid the truth from regulators and customers. Now, more recent research also suggests that Honda also was aware of the problem long before the recalls and may even have sent employees to inspect a Takata manufacturing plant in Mexico. More than half of the recalled cars in the US – 8.7 million of 13 million – are Hondas.
The faulty airbag issue has triggered multiple Senate hearings and an investigation by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration and some lawmakers are demanding criminal charges be levied should investigations prove a deliberate cover up.
If you own one of the vehicles affected in the recall and have suffered no injuries as a result of the defect, take it to your nearest dealership for a free-of-charge repair. However, if you or members of your family have sustained airbag-related injuries, get medical treatment immediately and keep the airbag intact, as it may be used as evidence in a personal injury case. Contact Harrell and Harrell, serving Northeast and Central Florida as well as South Georgia, at 800-251-1111.
The third quarter of 2014 proved a dubious one for the railway industry, including Jacksonville-based CSX Corp. Reports show that both personal injury and train accident rates rose, CSX Chief Operating Officer Oscar Munoz said in a recent conference call with investors. That figure is all the more disappointing considering last year’s near-record lows for injuries and accidents.
But it’s not just CSX seeing troubling numbers. Multiple high-profile train derailments across the country have thrust the issue of railway safety back into the media and regulatory spotlight. Among the most concerning are accidents involving trains transporting oil, known in the industry as oil-by-rail or crude-by-rail (CBR) trains. During 2013 and 2014, there have been at least 10 major CBR derailments in North America, including one in Quebec in July 2013 that exploded, killing 47 people and burning down a quarter of the town; another in Casselton, North Dakota last December that forced the evacuation of most of the town’s 2,300 resident; and a CSX train that exploded in Lynchburg, Virginia in late April that dumped three rail cars and spilling oil in to the St. James River, setting it ablaze.
Safety advocates claim inadequate regulation on CBR trains, which can carry up to 100 tank cars, each containing as much as 30,000 gallons of crude oil. They’re calling for increased regulation and restrictions on trains transporting oil to markets nationwide. Results of one recent study indicate significant need for higher standards for safe rail cars, more funding for prevention, preparedness and response programs and more transparency from oil companies.
Of highest concern are CBR trains, including those owned and operated by CSX, that transport a particular type of crude oil harvested from North Dakota’s Bakken region to cities all across the country. Bakken oil extraction increased from 3.4 million gallons per day in 2003 to 37.8 million in 2013, according to the Energy Information Administration. That’s a significant safety concern because Bakken oil is far more volatile and flammable than other types of crude oil, prompting safety advocates to dub Bakken-transporting CBRs “bomb trains.”
While the Department of Energy continues to study the issue and CSX and other railway companies promise increased focus on CBR safety, we here at Harrell and Harrell are keeping a close eye on the issue. Our experienced train and railroad accident attorneys specialize in helping drivers, pedestrians, passengers and railroad workers injured in train crashes, derailments and other incidents. If you or a family member suffer an injury either as a railway passenger or worker, contact us at 800-251-1111.
The Christmas, Hanukkah and New Year’s Eve holidays are among the busiest times of the year for people on America’s roadways, in the stores and out on the town. Unfortunately, all that merriment can quickly turn to despair if you’re not careful. Personal injury attorneys with Jacksonville’s Harrell and Harrell offer these five tips for staying safe during the harried holiday season.
- Shop smart: Muggings and thefts spike during the Christmas shopping season. Shoppers are urged to be wary of people around them while buying gifts and taking them home. Keep your wallet securely inside your purse or jacket pocket until it’s time to pay, and be particularly watchful while taking your purchases to your vehicle. Park in a well-lit area of the parking lot and avoid shopping alone. If no one is with you, ask for an escort by mall or store security personnel. Also take care while taking gifts from your driveway into your home.
- Don’t advertise: Once the gift exchange is done, never place tell-tale packaging in your trash. This practically advertises potential loot to home burglars and can put your family’s safety at risk. Destroy or take boxes, bags and other packaging to a public dumpster instead.
- Travel safe: If you plan to enjoy a cocktail or two during your holiday celebrations, be sure to have a non-drinking designated driver. Know that drunken driving accident rates can double during the holidays. Limit your time on the roadways and be extra wary when you are traveling. Also be aware that the number of large commercial trucks on America’s highways increases during this time, as distributors rush to get merchandise to retailers.
- Deck the halls wisely: Christmas Day, Christmas Eve and Dec. 23. are three of the top five days for home fires caused by candles. Skip conventional candles for battery-operated flameless candles instead. If you do use open-flame candles, place them far way from Christmas trees and decorations made of flammable fabrics including ribbons, tree skirts and stockings. Never leave a burning candle unattended.
- Ring in the New Year safely: Consumer-grade fireworks are popular among New Year’s Eve celebrants. Unfortunately, they’re also to blame for the vast majority of fireworks-related injuries. In fact, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that fireworks were involved in an estimated 11,400 injuries treated in hospital emergency departments nationwide and that eight non-occupational fireworks-related deaths occurred during calendar year 2013. When using fireworks, hold them away from your body while lighting them, then immediately move back to a safe distance. Never allow minors to use fireworks without responsible adult supervision. And douse spent devices with water before disposing of them.
Automobile and truck accidents, as well as product and premises liability cases often are results of holiday activities gone wrong. If you or your loved ones are injured by someone else’s negligent or deliberate act during this time, get medical treatment and contact Harrell and Harrell at 800-251-1111.
From all of us here at Harrell and Harrell, have a safe and happy holiday season.
Officials with the National legal and Policy Center, a nonprofit organization that promotes ethics in public life through research, investigation, education and legal action, this week called upon the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform to investigate evidence suggesting that General Motors purposefully delayed the recall of defective ignition switches. The move comes with reports of the 38th death confirmed to be linked with the faulty switches and news of emails that show the company ordered 500,000 replacement switches a full two months before it notified safety regulators of the defect.
News of the defect first hit in February 2014, with notification to the US Department of Transportation’s National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) that the company was recalling 780,000 vehicles. GM warned that the ignition switches were known to shift out of place, causing a vehicle’s engine to stall and shutting down multiple functions including power steering, power brakes and airbag deployment mechanisms. Weeks later, GM expanded the recall and admitted that it had known about the problem – which could have been fixed with a 57-cent part – for more than a decade.
In the months since, a rash of lawsuits have been filed against GM over deaths and injuries believed to have been caused by the defective switches, and new GM CEO Mary Barra testified before the US House Energy Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, saying “When we have answers, we will be fully transparent with you, with our regulators and with our customers.”
Now, emails released in a Texas court case allegedly prove that GM placed an “urgent” order for a half-million replacement ignition switches to be delivered “ASAP” on or around December 18, 2013. Yet, the defect wasn’t reported to the NHTSA until February 13, 2014 – nearly two months later. While GM contends that ordering parts before issuing a recall is standard procedure, attorneys argue that the delay needlessly put millions of customers at risk. In the Texas case alone, it’s alleged that a timely warning might have prevented at least one death and 85 injuries.
To date, GM has recalled some 29 million cars in North America this year, most of which involve the faulty ignition switches. While GM has thus far approved 38 death claims for compensation, a Reuters investigation claims the true death toll surpasses 150.
If you or a loved one have suffered an injury that you believe was caused by a malfunctioning ignition switch in a vehicle affected by the recall, get medical attention and contact a product liability attorney with Jacksonville’s Harrell and Harrell at 800-251-1111.