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Aug
27
2015
Florida ranks eighth in the nation for workers' compensation payouts.

Florida ranks eighth in the nation for workers’ compensation payouts.

Here in Florida, where Harrell and Harrell is based, total workers’ compensation payout ranks a respectable eighth in the nation, according to a recently released report by the National Academy of Social Insurance. But the news isn’t all good.

Data shows that nationwide it’s getting pricier for businesses to provide workers compensation coverage to employees and as a result, benefits are on the decline. The report shows that workers’ compensation benefits, as a percentage of payroll, dropped in 39 states between 2009 and 2013. Experts point to two primary reasons – one positive, the other less so.

“The decline is due to a drop in workplace injuries as well as changes in many state laws that made it more difficult for workers’ to qualify for benefits,” says John F. Burton, professor emeritus of Rutgers and Cornell University, who served on the data study panel. “These state laws include more stringent compensation rules, the reduction of coverage for certain medical diagnoses and new legal requirements that make it more difficult for workers to succeed in their claims for benefits.”

On average, injured workers received 98 cents per $100 of covered wages while employers paid $1.37 per $100 of covered wages. Plus, while benefits paid per $100 of covered wages decreased in 39 jurisdictions, employers’ costs for workers’ compensation insurance per $100 of covered wages increased in 27 jurisdictions.

Here in Florida, workers’ compensation premium rates currently are 58 percent lower than they were in 2003 and the National Council on Compensation Insurance recently proposed a 2.2-percent decrease in premiums throughout Florida. If approved, the new rates would become effective January 1, 2016.

In any case, know that your employer is legally required to provide you with a safe workplace where the risk of injury or illness is minimized. If you do suffer a workplace-related injury or illness, you are entitled to fair compensation. Report it, get medical treatment and call 800-251-1111 to speak with a workers compensation attorney with Jacksonville’s Harrell and Harrell.

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Aug
19
2015
This popular Grizzly table saw has been recalled after reports of a defect that caused a broken nose and lacerations.

This popular Grizzly table saw has been recalled after reports of a defect that caused a broken nose and lacerations.

America’s DIY enthusiasts love their power tools, and among the most popular among them is a table saw. Unfortunately, table saws also are among the most dangerous, sending some 40,000 Americans to hospital emergency rooms each year. Of these, upward of 4,000 table saw injuries result in amputations, leaving scores of victims disfigured and unable to work.

Now, an admitted defect in one popular table saw brand has prompted a recall of nearly 1,200 units. Made by Bellingham, Washington’s Grizzly Industrial, Inc., the Grizzly 10-inch hybrid table saw features a motor pulley that can come loose and hit the saw blade, causing the blade teeth to break into dozens of flying metal fragments, posing a risk of laceration or impact injury to users. Thus far, the company has received two reports of malfunction incidents, including one in which a 46 year-old man suffered a broken nose and multiple cuts.

Affected units are marked with the model number G0771 and serial numbers between TS2014060001 and TS2014111244 or a date code between 06/2014 and 11/2014 and were sold in the company’s store showrooms, online at www.grizzly.com, in catalogs and in woodworking trade magazines from January 2015 through May 2015 for about $625. Look for the Grizzly logo, “G0771,” the serial number and the date code printed on the side of the table saw’s enclosed white metal base.

If you own one of the recalled table saws and have not suffered an injury, return your saw to Grizzly for a full refund, a free repair or a free motor pulley kit that you can install yourself. However if you have suffered a table saw-related injury caused by the recalled product or any other brand, get medical treatment and contact Jacksonville’s Harrell and Harrell at 800-251-1111 to speak with an experienced product liability attorney today.

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Aug
08
2015
The risk of suffering serious injury in a car accident increases sharply beginning at age 70.

The risk of suffering serious injury in a car accident increases sharply beginning at age 70.

Recently, royal watching media outlets were all abuzz about captured shots of England’s Queen Elizabeth taking a Sunday drive in her Jaguar X-type through Windsor Great Park. Typically chauffeured, the soon to be 90-year-old monarch slipped behind the wheel herself for the drive to church. But the beloved ruler known for obsessively minding her royal Ps and Qs seemed oblivious to the rules of driving imposed upon the regular folk when she nonchalantly veered her car onto a grass verge to avoid hitting a young family strolling through the park.

The episode largely was met with amusement and affection. After all, no one was hurt and it’s arguable that the odd move was not due to any loss in ability but rather to the fact that she is, indeed, the Queen and enjoys all the pertinent perks. But it also prompted a wider discussion about the inherent risks associated with elderly drivers, both Across the Pond and here in the United States.

While driving is credited with helping many elder citizens to remain mobile and independent, the benefits come with a risk to not only older drivers but those on the roadways around them, too. Consider the statistics:

  • In 2012, there were upward of 36 million licensed drivers age 65 or older in the United States, a 34-percent increase from 1999.
  • That year, more than 5,560 older adults were killed and more than 214,000 were injured in motor vehicle accidents. These figures reflect 15 older adults killed and 586 injured in crashes every single day.
  • Per mile traveled, fatal accident rates increase noticeably beginning at ages 70-74 and are highest among drivers 85 and older. Experts point to increased susceptibility to injury and medical complications among older drivers, including age-related declines in vision and cognitive functioning (ability to reason and remember).

The good news is that most seniors tend to display habits that help to keep their risk for automobile accidents at bay. For instance, results of one study showed that 79 percent of older motor vehicle occupants who were involved in fatal crashes were wearing seatbelts at the time, compared to 66 percent of younger adults. Seniors also tend to drive when weather and visibility conditions are best and have a lower incidence of impaired driving. Study results revealed that just 7 percent of older drivers involved in fatal crashes had a BAC of 0.08 or greater at the time, compared to 24 percent of drivers age 21-64.

If you are, or if you love a senior still behind the wheel, auto accident attorneys with Jacksonville’s Harrell and Harrell offer these tips for reducing your risk of being involved in a crash:

  • Exercise regularly to improve and maintain strength and flexibility.
  • Ask your doctor or pharmacist about side effects of prescription and over-the-counter medications commonly used by seniors.
  • Undergo vision screenings at least once a year and wear contacts or glasses as prescribed.
  • Restrict driving to daylight hours in clear weather.
  • Plan the safest routes with well-lit streets, intersections with left turn arrows and easy parking.
  • Leave a large following distance behind the car in front of you.
  • Consider alternative travel modes such as catching a ride with a friend or using public transit services.

Most importantly understand the risks, take them seriously and accept that with age come both wonderful benefits and natural limitations.

If you’ve suffered an injury or loss in an accident caused by someone else’s negligence, age notwithstanding, call 800-251-1111 and speak with an experienced auto accident attorney.

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Aug
01
2015
Florida and Georgia both beat the national rate for auto drivers and passengers buckling up.

Florida and Georgia both beat the national rate for auto drivers and passengers buckling up.

 

Recent research by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that drivers and passengers wear seatbelts at higher rates than the national average. While nationally, 86 percent of all vehicle occupants wear restraints, that figure rises slightly to 87 percent in Florida and to an impressive 92 percent in Georgia.

Study after study shows that wearing a seatbelt and using proper child restraints save lives. In fact, wearing seatbelts and buckling children into age- and size-appropriate car seats or booster seats can reduce the risk of serious injury and death by half. Yet, millions of Americans navigate our nation’s roadways daily without using safety restraints.

So what’s pushing the rates of compliance in these two states? Law makers and enforcers credit the fact that both Florida and Georgia have primary seatbelt laws, which allow police officers to stop and ticket drivers or passengers for failing to buckle up. In Florida, these laws cover drivers, front seat passengers age 6 and older, and passengers age 6-17 in all seats. In Georgia, they cover drivers, front seat passengers age 18 and older, and passengers age 8−17 in all seats. On average, states with primary seatbelt laws see higher rates of seatbelt use than states with secondary laws, which allow officers to ticket offenders only if they’ve pulled the driver over for another reason, such as speeding or erratic driving.

Bottom line -To protect yourself and your passengers, insist upon proper seatbelt and child restraint use every time you venture out onto the roadways, even if you’re only traveling a short distance. A recent survey by Progressive Insurance found that 52 percent of reported crashes occurred just five miles or less from the driver’s home and a whopping 77 percent occurred 15 miles or less from home.

If you or your dependents are injured in an accident caused by another driver’s negligence, contact an experienced auto accident attorney. Jacksonville’s Harrell and Harrell can be reached at 800-251-1111.

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Jul
26
2015
A proposed NHTSA rule will strengthen motorcycle helmet laws.

A proposed NHTSA rule will strengthen motorcycle helmet laws.

While total motor vehicle fatalities decreased by 15 percent from 1994 to 2012, motorcycle fatalities doubled over the same period of time. In fact, statistics show that a motorcyclist is 30 times more likely to die in a crash than an automobile passenger, with traumatic head injuries being the primary cause of death. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), much of the blame lies in substandard motorcycle helmets.

In an effort to curb these statistics and save lives, NHTSA officials recently proposed a new rule calling for increased safety standards and labeling requirements for motorcycle helmets. Of top concern is the growing use of novelty helmets that do not comply with current safety requirements established by the US Department of Transportation. They’re popular for multiple reasons, including the fact that they’re significantly less expensive than compliant helmets. Despite the fact that these novelty helmets are not intended for highway use, they are heavily marketed to consumers for on-road use. As a result, they’re used by upward of 27 percent of motorcycle riders and passengers in states with universal motorcycle helmet laws.

If adopted, the NHTSA’s proposed rule would assist law enforcement officials in the 17 states that require the use of DOT-compliant motorcycle helmets by making it easier to identify noncompliant helmets. Current certification labeling requirements require all certified helmets to feature a decal indicating compliance with federal standards, but in states with universal helmet use laws, many motorcyclists place fake DOT decals on noncompliant helmets. They get away with it because most law enforcement agencies lack the time or resources to individually test potentially noncompliant helmets.

To better address bogus labels, the proposed rule would require all DOT-approved helmets to pass preliminary screening criteria that would be easy for officers to test in the field. Under the rule, compliant helmets would be required to cover a fixed amount of a user’s skull, and to have a minimum helmet shell and lining thickness that can be measured with an inexpensive probe.

“Wearing a helmet that meets DOT standards can literally mean the difference between life and death,” said NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind. “Our proposal ensures that when motorcyclists put on a helmet it offers that life-saving protection.”

Here in Florida, anyone over 21 years of age may operate or ride a motorcycle without wearing a helmet so long as they carry insurance providing at least $10,000 in medical benefits for injuries. But considering the risk, we highly recommend wearing a DOT-compliant helmet. If you have suffered injury or lost someone you love in a motorcycle accident caused by someone else’s negligence or by wearing a helmet that had erroneously been marketed for on-road use, contact an experienced motorcycle accident attorney. Jacksonville’s Harrell and Harrell can be reached at 800-251-1111.

 

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Jul
20
2015
The Instant Pot Smart and Smart-60 electric pressure cookers are among several popular kitchen items recalled over safety issues this month.

The Instant Pot Smart and Smart-60 electric pressure cookers are among several popular kitchen items recalled over safety issues this month.

 

If you love to cook up new recipes, or simply enjoy eating them, you likely spend lots of time in your kitchen. Take note – three popular kitchen items have been recalled this month over risks of laceration, burns and even electrical shock.

Boca Raton, FL-based Epoca International has issued a recall of some 113,000 glass whistling kettles, warning that the bottom portion of glass vessel can break when heated and the contents can spill, posing laceration and burn hazards. This far, the company has received nine reports of incidents that resulted in three injuries and property damage. Affected models are numbered PTKG-4420 (featuring a green plastic handle and whistling stopper lid) and PTKB-4420 (with a black plastic handle and lid).

Canada’s Instant Pot has recalled 1,000 Smart and Smart-60 electric pressure cookers sold throughout the United State after three reports of users being shocked while using them. Company officials warn that the thermal probe in the base of these popular pressure cookers, known as the first Bluetooth-connected cookers, can conduct electricity throughout the device, posing a risk of electric shock. Look for serial numbers between 1410 and 1503 and manufacture dates between 12/1/2014 and 6/1/2015 printed on a label on the bottom of the pressure cooker’s base.

The largest of the three recalls affects some 367,000 motion sensor trashcans made by EKO USA and sold exclusively at Costco stores. The black plastic protective collar in the opening on the back of the trash receptacle can become dislodged and expose a sharp edge, posing a laceration risk. At press time, the company had received 13 reports of injury-causing incidents.

If any of these products are in your kitchen and there have been no injuries or you or your family members, contact the manufacturers or sellers about refunds or repairs. However, if an injury has occurred, keep the product intact, as it may be needed as evidence in a court case. Get medical attention and contact a product liability attorney with Jacksonville’s Harrell and Harrell at 800-251-1111.

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Jul
17
2015
At any given daylight moment across America, 660,000 drivers are using cell phones or other devices while driving.

At any given daylight moment across America, 660,000 drivers are using cell phones or other devices while driving.

A unique ruling in a high profile Clinton County, Michigan case is drawing both praise and criticism. But it’s also highlighting growing frustrations with the issue of distracted driving.

Police reports show that defendant Mitzi Nelson was texting on her cell phone when her car hit Jill Byelich, a mother of two and an avid bicyclist, in September. Byelich was wearing a reflective vest and helmet and was riding on the right edge of the road when Nelson’s car struck and killed her. In court, Nelson pleaded no contest and Judge Stewart McDonald sentenced her to a minimum 90-day jail stay, 150 hours of community service and more than $17,000 in restitution, fines, fees and court costs. She also must speak to 20 driver’s education classes about the dangers of distracted driving and is banned from owning a cell phone during her two-year probation.

“I don’t think she has a right to have a cell phone,” Judge Stewart McDonald said at Nelson’s sentencing. “I think it’s a privilege.”

At any given daylight moment across America, upward of 660,000 drivers are using cell phones or manipulating electronic devices while driving – often with tragic results. Statistics show that in 2013, 3,154 people were killed and 424,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers. Any momentary distraction, including reaching for a ringing phone, dialing or looking at the on-screen caller ID can be dangerous. But texting is particularly risky because it takes the driver’s eyes off the road for an average five seconds. Traveling at 55 miles per hour, that’s enough time to cover the length of a football field.

If a distracted driver causes you or someone you love serious injury or loss, you’ll want to enlist the help of an experienced auto accident lawyer. Jacksonville’s Harrell and Harrell can be reached at 800-251-1111.

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Jul
15
2015
Researchers recently found that several popular children's crayon brands contain asbestos.

Researchers recently found that several popular children’s crayon brands contain asbestos.

Parents assume that if a toy is allowed on America’s store shelves, it must be safe. Unfortunately, that’s not always true, as recent research commissioned by the EWG Action Fund shows. Tests revealed that samples of four brands of children’s crayons and two kids’ crime scene fingerprint kits contain deadly asbestos fibers.

Many erroneously believe that asbestos has been banned in America. Not so. While use of asbestos is prohibited in the manufacture of various products including certain types of insulation and paper, it’s still legally and widely used in other products like clothing, roofing felt, vinyl floor tiles and automotive parts. This is despite the fact that asbestos is a known carcinogen that kills up to 15,000 Americans a year.

Asbestos-caused medical conditions including lung disease, lung cancer and mesothelioma typically are the result of breathing in tiny asbestos particles that become airborne. Findings of the tests on children’s products are particularly troubling considering that a child exposed to asbestos is 3.5 more likely than a 25-year-old to develop mesothelioma, according to the according to the UK Committee on Carcinogenicity. Unfortunately, because it’s a progressive disease that can take years, even decades to develop, diagnosis typically happens in later stages with high mortality rates.

“Asbestos in toys poses an unacceptable risk to children, today as it did in 2000 and 2007, the last time tests found the deadly substance in these children’s products,” says Dr. Philip Landrigan, professor of pediatrics and preventive medicine at New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital. Landrigan is an internationally- recognized expert in the area of asbestos and other toxic materials and a former senior adviser to the US Environmental Protection Agency on children’s environmental health.

Products proven to contain asbestos in the tests include:

  • Amscan crayons
  • Disney Mickey Mouse Clubhouse crayons
  • Nickelodeon Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle crayons
  • Saban’s Power Rangers Super Megaforce crayon boxes
  • Edu Science Deluxe Forensic Lab Kits (black fingerprint powder)
  • Inside Intelligence Secret Spy Kit (white fingerprint powder)

These products all were made in China, imported to the US and sold at popular retailers including Party City and Dollar Tree as well as online at ToysRUs.com and Amazon.com. Reports of the test results have prompted inquiries by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission.

If your children use or play with any of the products listed, product liability attorneys with Jacksonville’s Harrell and Harrell strongly recommend that you replace them with safer brands. If you believe your child has suffered an injury or illness caused by the faulty manufacture of a toy, contact us at 800-251-1111.

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Jun
29
2015
Fewer teens are losing their lives in car accidents, research shows.

Fewer teens are losing their lives in car accidents, research shows.

If you’ve got a teenager behind the wheel, there’s good news. New research shows that today’s teenage drivers are less likely to be involved in fatal car accidents than at any point over the past 20 years.

Statistics from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety show a 56-percent decrease in the number of drivers age 15 to 19 involved in fatal crashes over the past two decades, from 6,000 in 1994 down to 2,614 in 2013. Researchers credited increased seatbelt use among teenagers, more strenuous drivers’ license preparation and exam programs and economic factors – namely higher gas prices.

While the news certainly is positive, it doesn’t mean that teens are fully in the clear behind the wheel, of course. Teen drivers still have higher crash rates than any other age group. Plus, 27 percent of victims of fatal car crashes involving teen drivers were passengers in those drivers’ cars and 30 percent of those killed were other cars.

“This data confirms that the impact of their crashes extend well beyond the teen who is behind the wheel,” said Peter Kissinger, president and CEO of the Foundation for Traffic Safety. “Since teens drive more during the summer than any other season, this insight is a timely reminder to everyone – drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists – to be mindful when sharing the roads with young drivers.”

In fact, teen fatalities rise 43 percent during summer months, according to the AAA. After all, teens are out of school and logging far more miles on the road to hang out with friends.

If your teenager has hit driving age, set and enforce strict safety rules including wearing seatbelts, driving no faster that the speed limit, limiting the number of passengers and nixing distractions like mobile phones and loud music. In the event that your teenager is involved in a car crash caused by another driver’s negligence, get your child medical treatment immediately, even if there are no apparent injuries. That’s because most problematic crash-related issues are soft-tissue injuries that can be seen with the human eye or even with X-rays. Then, contact an experienced auto accident injury attorney with Jacksonville’s Harrell and Harrell at 800-251-1111.

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Jun
22
2015
Some 9 million Americans use sleeping pills, and that could place them at risk for auto accidents.

Some 9 million Americans use sleeping pills, and that could place them at risk for auto accidents.

If a good night’s sleep proves elusive, you may be tempted to turn to prescription or over-the-counter sleep aids. But if you drive daily, you’ll want to reconsider. New research shows that taking sedative sleeping pill such as Ambien, Desyrel or Restoril can nearly double the risk of an automobile accident for new users.

A study conducted by the University of Washington in Seattle examined prescription records and automobile crash record of more than 400,000 registered Washington state drivers who had a drug benefit in the Group Health Cooperative insurance plan. Results showed that the risk of a crash related to sedative use is similar to the crash risk associated with driving drunk, and that the risk continued for up to a year among regular users.

Ambien in particular has been a concern in recent years. In 2013, the US Food and Drug Administration mandated lower recommended doses, labeling changes and a recommendation to avoid driving the day after taking Ambien CR, an extended-release form of the drug. The move was prompted by complaints and report of daytime drowsiness in patients who had taken Ambien the evening prior. FDA officials noted studies that showed blood levels of the drug in some patients remained high enough the next morning to “to impair activities that require alertness, including driving.” Research shows that women are at higher risk because their bodies process the drug more slowly than men’s bodies.

If you have been prescribed sedatives, talk with your doctor about the risks and be sure to follow instructions precisely. If you’ve suffered injury or loss in a car accident or other incident that you believe was caused by daytime drowsiness resulting from sedative use, contact an experienced dangerous drugs attorney. Jacksonville’s Harrell and Harrell, serving North and Central Florida and South Georgia, can be reached at 800-251-1111.

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