In the year following reports that the backlog of pending disability claims at the Department of Veterans Affairs hit an all-time high of more than 611,000, the agency responded to mounting criticism by working to reduce that number of pending claims by 44 percent to about 344,000 last month. New reports show that veterans also now are waiting an average 119 days less for a decision on their claims than they were a year ago. While those improvements certainly are welcome, there remains room for improvement – lots of it, say veterans’ disability benefits attorneys.
Now, America’s military veterans suffering total and permanent disability finally are getting the attention they deserve from the VA and the Social Security Administration, thanks to a new policy of fast-tracking Social Security benefit claims from veterans with permanent and total disability. Claims of those meeting strict requirements will have their applications treated as high priority claims warranting expedited decisions.
“We have reached another milestone for those who have sacrificed so much for our country and this process ensures they will get the benefits they need quickly,” said acting Social Security Commissioner Carolyn W. Colvin. “While we can never fully repay them for their sacrifices, we can be sure we provide them with the quality of service that they deserve. This initiative is truly a lifeline for those who need it most.”
To qualify for the expedited claims process, veterans must have a VA disability compensation rating of 100 percent permanent and total and must show their VA notification letter as proof of that disability rating. Note that the VA rating simply expedites the Social Security disability claims processing. It does not guarantee an approval for disability benefits.
“No one wants to put America’s veterans through a bureaucratic runaround,” said Maryland Congressman John Sarbanes in a media release issued by the Social Security Administration. “As the baby boomer generation ages and more veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan need care, this common sense change will help reduce backlogs and cut through unnecessary red tape so that our most disabled veterans receive the benefits they’ve earned.”
If you’re a veteran suffering a service-related disability and have had your claim for benefits denied or delayed, or if you disagree with your VA rating, veterans’ disability benefits attorneys with Jacksonville’s Harrell and Harrell can help. We are dedicated to helping those who have sacrificed so much for our country to secure the benefits they so richly deserve. Call 800-251-1111 to schedule a consultation today.
The high school prom season is well underway and summer vacation is just around the corner. Both mean more teenagers on the road and many of them throw caution to the wind while in a celebratory mood. Unfortunately, the celebration quickly turns to mourning for family and friends of teens lost in prom night or summer car crashes, often fueled by underage drinking.
The rate of car crashes involving teens rises during the prom season, and hits an annual peak from early June to late August, dubbed the “100 Deadliest Days” for teens on the road. But there are ways to help keep your teenager from becoming a tragic statistic.
- Make sure you know where and with whom your teen will be before, during and after the dance.
- Limit the number of prom-goers in one vehicle if a teen is driving.
- Better yet, splurge for a limo. It’ll impress the kids, and assure that a sober adult is behind the wheel.
- Set a strict curfew. The later teens stay out, the higher the risk of an accident.
- Make it clear that alcohol or drug use will not be tolerated and will result in your teen’s driving privileges being taken away.
- Assure your teens that you’re willing to pick them up if another driver drinks or if other trouble arises. Or, give your teen a list of taxi company phone numbers to call for a safe ride home.
- Remind teens that even if they follow all the rules, others on the road may not.
Prom and summer vacation should be a fun time that teens will remember fondly the rest of their lives. If your child is injured in a car crash, get medical treatment immediately. Then, contact an experienced auto accident attorney with Jacksonville’s Harrell and Harrell, providing services throughout Northeast Florida, Orlando and South Georgia. Call 800-251-1111 or complete our online case evaluation form.
Springtime means more boaters on Florida’s waterways. Unfortunately, it also means a rise in boating-related injuries and fatalities, say boating accident attorneys with Jacksonville’s Harrell and Harrell.
Boating is a popular pastime in Northeast Florida. The St. Johns River, the Atlantic Ocean and multiple lakes and creeks make for plenty of boating options. In fact, Florida leads the nation in the number of registered vessels – nearly 1 million. Sadly, the Sunshine State also leads the nation in the number of boating fatalities annually. Consider these statistics from 2011, the latest year for which the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FFWCC) issued a report:
- In 2011, there were 742 accidents on Florida waters, resulting in 431 injuries and 67 fatalities;
- 94% of all fatal accidents in 2011 involved vessels 21 feet and under;
- Alcohol or drug-use played a role in 15% of boating fatalities;
- 51% of the operators involved in reportable boating accidents had no formal boater education.
Florida law requires that anyone born on or after January 1, 1988 complete a boater education course approved by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators prior to operating a vessel powered by a motor of 10 horsepower or more, and that these boaters have in their possession a Boating Safety Education ID card issued by the FFWCC while operating a vessel. Even if you’re not required by law to get the Florida boating license, it’s a good idea to take the boat safety course periodically to keep your skills sharp and to save money on your boating insurance.
To help avoid boating accidents, follow all legal rules and regulations; abstain from alcohol while operating a vessel; steer clear of fellow boaters who are drinking or failing to follow rules or common sense safety precautions; keep an eye on the weather both before and during a boating excursion by using a weather radio and studying maps that pinpoint dangerous underwater hazards.
If you or your dependent are injured in a boating crash or accident caused by the actions of another, contact an experienced boating accident attorney. Jacksonville’s Harrell and Harrell, practicing throughout Northeast Florida, Orlando and South Georgia, can be reached at 800-251-1111.
Personal injury law is a complex multi-faceted legal field. And it’s a busy one! According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s National Center for Health Statistics, there are 32 million emergency room visits each year due to injuries – nearly 180,000 of which result in death.
When a person’s actions or negligence causes injury to or the death of another, it can be difficult to measure the losses. For injured victims, medical care and costs can persist for years. Lost wages and future loss of earning capacity also demand compensation, but a fair amount is not easily calculated. And of course, there is no dollar amount that can make up for the loss of a loved one.
Personal injury attorneys with Jacksonville’s Harrell and Harrell specialize in helping victims secure fair compensation for their losses in the event of a serious injury or death. Among the top PI claim types are:
- Traffic / Auto Accidents: More than 6 million traffic accidents occur annually in the United States. These involve not just motor vehicles, but bicyclist and pedestrians as well. And America’s growing addiction to their smart phones and other mobile devices mean roadway accidents are on the rise.
- Workplace Injuries: Upwards of 3 million non-fatal workplace injuries are reported each year. Another 5,000 are fatal. Today’s tight economy and scarcity of jobs mean the actual rate is likely much higher, as many employees are afraid to report injuries. But depending upon the severity and frequency, injuries to necks, backs and limbs can significantly reduce a victim’s ability to continue making a living.
- Assault: The U.S. Bureau of Justice reported more than 2 million simple assault cases in 2010 alone. Many of the resulting personal injury claims come in conjunction with other issues including domestic violence, drug or alcohol abuse or workplace violence. But it’s not just bodily injury that assault claims cover. Victims often can seek damages for emotional distress as well.
- Slip and Fall: Each year, more than 8 million slip and fall accidents happen, with upwards of 540,000 resulting in disabling injuries. They’re the single most common reason for emergency room visits and can cost an average $28,000 in medical and physical therapy bills, and lost wages.
- Products Liability: Unsafe medical devices, defective furniture and electronics, faulty children’s toys – all have led to product liability claims numbering an estimated 20,000 filed each year, and they’re among the costliest. Products liability cases have the second highest median damages awards, averaging $300,000 per claim.
If you or your dependents suffer bodily hurt due to the actions or negligence of another, contact an experienced personal injury attorney immediately. Jacksonville’s Harrell and Harrell, with offices throughout Northeast Florida, in Orlando and in South Georgia, specializes in PI cases of all types. Contact us at 800-251-1111.
A revamped Personal Injury Protection (PIP) law went into effect January 1. And with it comes a wave of controversy. That’s because the new statute does more to profit insurance companies than it does to protect injured drivers’ rights, say auto accident and personal injury lawyers with Jacksonville’s Harrell and Harrell.
First enacted in the early 1970s, the PIP law, otherwise known as the Florida No-Fault law, required drivers of all vehicles with four or more wheels to purchase PIP coverage. That coverage would pay 80% of medical bills and 60% of lost wages up to $10,000 for all drivers involved in a car accident – regardless which driver was at fault.
With the start of the New Year, changes in the statute place multiple restrictions on drivers’ rights, making it more difficult for them to claim the benefits for which they paid, and easier for insurers to deny valid claims. A major point of contention is a requirement that a car accident victim receive initial treatment within 14 days after the date of the accident. That may work fine for victims with obvious and urgent injuries such as broken bones, punctured organs or internal bleeding. But it does little, if anything for the victim who suffers only soft tissue damage. Because soft tissue injuries don’t show up on X-ray images, they almost inevitably are missed by emergency room workers. Plus, victims may not feel pain from this type of injury for weeks or even months after the fact. And it can cause victims pain and difficulty for years.
The new Florida No-Fault law also cuts potential benefits. It caps payment for emergency medical conditions to $10,000 and non-emergency conditions to $2,500. It also limits payment for chiropractic treatment and disallows coverage for massage and acupuncture treatment altogether.
Although the statue calls for a 10 percent reduction in PIP premiums, it also gives insurance companies an easy out. They simply must provide a detailed explanation as to why they consider the rate cut detrimental to their business and they’re off the hook. Insurance companies also can compel victims to give an Examination Under Oath (EUO), a formal statement typically given with a court reporter present. Victims unable to attend an EUO meeting may find their claims denied, despite their validity.
If you or your dependents are injured in an auto collision, get medical treatment immediately, ask physicians to check for potential soft tissue injuries, and contact an experienced auto accident and personal injury lawyer. Jacksonville’s Harrell & Harrell specializes in dealing with insurance companies to secure your rightful benefits.
Product liability and dangerous drug attorneys are ramping up their clients’ cases against the New England Compounding Center (NECC). Thus far, more than 50 lawsuits have been filed against the small compounding pharmacy at the center of the fungal meningitis outbreak that has taken nearly 40 lives.
In October, patients who had received injections of a steroid medication packaged and marketed by the NECC between May and September began falling sick. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, dizziness, drowsiness, blurred vision, exhaustion and difficulty with speech and attention. To date, 37 have died.
An investigation by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention traced the tainted steroid to three lots of medication from the NECC, based in Framingham, Mass. By then, the contaminated formula had been distributed to 75 medical facilities in 23 states, including Florida, and doctors had administered doses of the medication to nearly 14,000 patients. By mid-December, 19 states had reported a total of 590 patients with fungal infection, 368 of which were proven cases of fungal meningitis.
Victims who have since developed fungal meningitis deal not only with symptoms of a very serious illness, but with the financial and emotional fallout as well. Even those who have insurance can face thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket expenses. All of this together can cause significant strain on a victim and his or her family and caretakers.
Lawsuits filed target multiple defendants including the NECC; its pharmacist and co-founder Barry Cadden; co-founder Greg Congliaro; sister company Ameridose; marketing and support arm Medical Sales Management; and individual physicians and healthcare facilities that victims visited for their treatments.
If you believe that you, your spouse or dependent received an injection of the tainted steroid, contact an attorney experienced in dangerous drug and defective medical product cases. With offices in Jacksonville, Orlando and throughout Northeast Florida and Southeast Georgia, Harrell and Harrell has successfully secured fair compensation for many victims affected by dangerous or tainted drugs. Call 800-251-1111 or complete our online form for a free case evaluation.
Winter holidays are all about home and hearth and hearty meals. But three products you may plan to use over the coming months have proven unsafe. The Consumer Product Safety Commission and three companies have
Kids and adults alike are excited about next week’s spooky fun celebrations. But auto accident attorneys with Jacksonville’s Harrell and Harrell warn that many real-life horror stories play out on the roadways on Halloween night.
Statistics from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration show that 60 percent of Halloween highway fatalities involve impaired drivers; and that children are more than twice as likely to be killed by a car while walking on Halloween as any other night of the year.
Adults attending Halloween parties almost inevitably will enjoy a few alcoholic drinks. If you plan to drink, designate a non-drinking driver for the evening. If you’re hosting a Halloween party, keep in mind that you may be held partially responsible for an accident caused by a guest who drank at your party if you know that person then drove impaired.
If you have children who will trick-or-treat that night, go with them and watch vigilantly for cars speeding or traveling erratically down neighborhood streets. Remember that this is an exciting night for children, anxious to show off their costumes to friends they see along the way, and of course, to be first at the door to get the “good” candy. Despite your firmly stated rules, they’re apt to dart out into neighborhood streets without first looking both ways. Also, dark costumes make children less visible to drivers, impaired or not. Make sure drivers see your children by encouraging them to choose light or bright colored costumes or by marking dark costumes with strips of reflective tape that will shine in the beam of a car’s headlights. Having children carry flashlights or glow sticks helps as well.
If you or your child are injured in a Halloween night auto accident, attorneys with Jacksonville’s Harrell and Harrell can help assure you get fair compensation. Call 800.251.1111.
From all of us here at Harrell and Harrell, have a safe and happy Halloween!
If you drive a Honda Accord sedan or one of several General Motors models, take note. Honda announced the recall of 573,000 Accord sedans, citing a power steering fluid leak, and GM is recalling 41,000 crossovers and coupes for fuel leaks. All of these cars pose a potential fire risk, according to filings with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Effected units include 573,147 Honda Accord Sedans from the 2003 to 2007 model years. Company officials say high temperatures under the hood can cause the steering fluid hose to crack. This could cause fluid to leak into a hot catalytic converter and potentially catch fire. This same defect is part of the May recall of 2007 and 2008 Honda Acura TL models that affected 52,615 cars.
Unfortunately, Honda currently lacks enough replacement parts to cover all affected Accords. The company is ramping up production of heat-resistant steering fluid hoses and expects to have plenty ready in early 2013. If you purchased one of these models, look for notification in your mailbox. Meanwhile, though Honda has not recommended that you stop driving the cars, be aware of the fire risk. If you suspect a steering fluid hose crack, immediately park, turn off and move a safe distance from your car.
GM models affected include 2007-2009 Chevrolet Cobalts, 2007-2009 Pontiac G5s, 2007 Chevrolet Equinoxes, 2007 Pontiac Torrents and 2007 Saturn Ions sold in Florida, Arizona, California, Nevada, Oklahoma and Texas.
“Some of these vehicles have a condition in which the plastic supply or return port on the fuel pump module may crack, which could cause a fuel leak,” NHTSA officials said in a statement posted on the agency’s website. “Fuel leakage in the presence of an ignition source may result in a fire.”
GM has reported no related fires or injuries, but says that the defect has higher danger potential in warm-weather states. The will replace the fuel module free of charge, including for those who live outside the states affected by the recall, 10 years or 120,000 miles from the date the vehicle was sold.
If you own or have driven or ridden in one of the vehicles affected in either of these product recalls and have suffered an injury caused by the stated defects, contact a personal injury or product liability attorney with Jacksonville’s Harrell and Harrell. Other locations include Orlando, Palatka, Fernandina Beach, St. Augustine and Lake City in Florida, plus Brunswick, Georgia.
Working hard to get fit so you can look great at your upcoming holiday season parties? If you’re using Fitness Anywhere’s early model suspension trainer devices, take note. San Francisco-based Fitness Anywhere, LLC has recalled about 40,000 of these devices after receiving 570 reports of potentially dangerous breaks.
The affected Professional (P1) and Tactical (T1) TRX suspension straps have length-adjustment buckles that can break, causing the user to fall. Thus far, 82 users have reported falls and 13 of them reported suffering face, head, shoulder and hip injuries. Fitness Anywhere and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission urge consumers to stop using the recalled products immediately.
Recalled units were made in China between January 2006 and July 2007, and sold at health and fitness stores and studios nationwide, plus Fitness Anywhere’s ecommerce website, between January 2006 and December 2009 for about $150-$200. They have yellow or khaki nylon straps with a carabiner (ring-shaped attachment) at the top end and a black nylon loop on the bottom end; second black and yellow or black and khaki nylon strap threaded through the loop; and adjustable cam buckle, foam covered hand grips and a foot cradle. Hand grips on the recalled devices lack end bumpers and an extra nylon “locking” loop designed to limit slippage of the straps. Also look for the TRX logo and the word “professional” or “tactical” surrounded by raised dots, or with double lines through them on strap badges.
If you purchased or used one of these items and have not been injured, contact Fitness Anywhere toll-free at (888)-221-7417 or via email at email@example.com for instructions on returning it for a replacement. If you have been injured while using a recalled unit, stop using it, place it in a bag or box exactly as it is (do not destroy it or attempt to repair it) and contact an experienced personal injury or product liability attorney. Jacksonville-based Harrell and Harrell, with offices throughout Northeast Florida and in Orlando and Brunswick, Georgia, have successfully worked thousands of cases, helping victims of defective products win fair compensation for their injuries and losses. Call 800-251-1111 or complete our online form for a free case evaluation.