Each summer, many residents of Asheville, Waynesville, and Franklin, NC, as well as residents of Greenville and Spartanburg, SC, and surrounding areas enjoy boating with friends and family. Whether you are planning to enjoy boating on one of the numerous lakes in Western North Carolina or Upstate South Carolina, or if you are planning a drive to the coast, it is important to learn more about boating safety to avoid personal injuries.

stockfresh_3227578_man-boating-on-lake_sizeS-300x200May 20-26 is National Safe Boating Week. Now is a great time to learn more about safe boating practices and to understand issues of liability when boat accidents happen.

Tips for Safe Boating This Summer in North Carolina and South Carolina

Western North Carolina is full of popular recreational lakes, such as Lake Lure and Lake Fontana. Yet without practicing safe boating, accidents and boating injuries can happen.

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If an illness or injury is caused by VA activities, including VA healthcare, the VA offers an alternative procedure (38 U.S.C. § 1151, hereinafter referred to as “§ 1151”) to the usual remedies under the Federal Tort Claim Act (28 U.S.C. §§ 1346(b), 2671-2680, hereinafter referred to as “FTCA”).  This internal procedure mirrors the VA’s disability compensation procedure and takes full advantage of the highly veteran-friendly benefits granted by statute and regulation.  This article will briefly describe when both § 1151 and FTCA actions are available, what the procedures and requirements are, and what the possible remedies may be.  It is important to note that both § 1151 and FTCA actions may take place simultaneously, but an award from one may have to credit an award from the other.  Because many factors need to be weighed and certain deadlines have to be met, it is highly advised that a Veteran consults his or her attorney as soon as possible after receiving an illness or injury at a VA facility or due to VA care, and before deciding upon either a § 1151 or FTCA claim.

stockfresh_7295473_vet-concept-wooden-letterpress-type_sizeS-300x200The first thing to do is to look at the two actions.  FTCA is applicable any time an employee of the government commits a negligent or wrongful act or omission while acting within the scope of his office or employment.[1] The FTCA further defines employee of the government as “includ[ing]…officers or employees of any federal agency…and persons acting on behalf of a federal agency in an official capacity, temporarily or permanently in the service of the United States, whether with or without compensation.”[2]  This scope is far broader than the scope of § 1151, which is only applicable when the injury or death is caused by VA hospital care, medical or mental health treatment and examinations, and vocational rehabilitation or Compensated Work Therapy (“CWT”).  If a VA maintenance employee incorrectly hung a sign in the Lobby of the VA and the sign fell, injuring a visitor, then this visitor could have a claim against the VA under the FTCA.[3]  However, if a VA Doctor amputated the wrong limb of a patient, then that patient could have a claim under both § 1151 and the FTCA.

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When families make the decision to put their loved ones in a nursing home, it usually happens because the family is not equipped to provide the kind of care that their loved one needs – and they hope that the nursing home can.

While many nursing homes take good care of their residents, too many nursing home residents find themselves in very vulnerable situations. Perhaps thstockfresh_6876639_nurse-pushing-old-man-on-wheelchair-in-hospice_sizeS-300x200ey do not have their full mental faculties. Many times they cannot walk, bathe, or use the bathroom without assistance. Those vulnerabilities can make them targets, and many rest homes do not do enough to protect their residents from abusive workers.

A recent investigative report from CNN looked into the issue in detail and discovered that more than 1,000 nursing homes have been cited for mishandling suspected sex abuse cases.

Building a new home is a time-consuming, stressful process that can have a lot of payoffs for the new homeowner. For one, if you have been monitoring the construction to some extent, you may have reasonable confidence that the construction is being done right and that contractors and subcontractors are not cutting corners.

You can also stockfresh_1456672_home-inspector_sizeS-200x300generally expect to have fewer problems with a new home that you might with a pre-owned home — fewer pests, less risk of mold or structural problems, etc. Except that is not always the case.

What happens if you have moved into your new home and you are already noticing problems? Who is responsible? What can you do?

Because most injuries and illnesses change over time, the Veterans Administration allows Veterans to file for an increase in certain disability ratings.  It is important to note that the VA will not automatically adjust a Veteran’s compensation if his or her condition worsens – the Veteran has to actively file for an increase, even if it is clear to the VA that the conditioned has worsened.

stockfresh_7143766_military-fatigues-flag-dog-tags_sizeS-1-200x300Disabilities rarely stay the same.  They improve, worsen, or change altogether throughout their existence.  When an injury or illness worsens, such as an arthritic knee losing flexibility or a veteran with Traumatic Brain Injury or TBI experiences greater memory loss or increased seizures, a claim for a disability rating increase should be filed.  There are a couple of options on what to file.  VA Form 21-526b, Veteran’s Supplemental Claim for Compensation, may be submitted as a formal claim for an increased rating claim.  VA Form 21-526EZ, Application for Disability Compensation and Related Compensation Benefits, can also be used for increasing a rating. VA Form 21-8940, Veteran’s Application for Increased Compensation based on Unemployability, can be submitted as a formal claim for total disability rating based on individual unemployability (“TDIU”).  It is import to know that a claim for TDIU does not increase the actual rating of a specific claim, rather it potentially increases the rate of pay if a condition(s) leads to the inability of a Veteran to find and maintain gainful employment.  A veteran may also file a VA Form 21-0966, Intent to File a Claim for Compensation and/or Pension, or Survivors Pension and/or DIC (“Intent to File”).  Filing an Intent to File form will preserve a date to act as the effective date as long as one of the forms mentioned above is filed within one year of filing the Intent to File form.

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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently announced a proposed rule that would enable vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication for all new light-duty vehicles. The proposed rule aims to prevent car accidents by letting vehicles communicate with each other.

This idea was first floated by the NHTSA nearly 3 years ago. If put into effect by 2019 as proposed, it would start phasing in the new rule in 2021, with 2023 set as the deadline for compliance.stockfresh_6593245_connected-car-truck-vehicle-autonomous_sizeS-300x253

How V2V Technology Works

V2V technology uses dedicated short-range communication (DSRC) to allow vehicles within about 1,000 feet of each other to exchange information about location, direction and speed. That info is sent 10 times per second, and vehicles with V2V can use that information to warn the driver about safety hazards.

If a vehicle has automated driving features, it can also use the V2V information to adapt its speed, direction, or braking in order to avoid crashes.

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Student loan payments can be a heavy burden for many people, but for those who rely on Social Security disability benefits to get by, the burden is especially heavy.

With many returning to college at later ages for a change in career, and others co-signing on student loans for family members, there are more older Americans than ever who still have outstanding student loan bills to pay.stockfresh_1091672_mature-woman-in-college_sizeS-300x167

According to a recent report from the Government Accountability Office, the government garnished Social Security benefits of 114,000 people ages 50 and over during the last year to recoup student loan debt – and more than half of those were on Social Security disability instead of retirement income.

Although debt collectors cannot take more than 15% of the benefits check, wage garnishment is leaving people who rely on their Social Security benefits below the poverty guideline.

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stockfresh_7295473_vet-concept-wooden-letterpress-type_sizeS-300x200By regulation, the VA has a duty to grant “every benefit that can be supported in law.”[1]  However, the same regulation also states, in the same sentence, that the VA must also protect the interests of the Government.[2]  This competing interest necessitated the courts to continually refine the VA’s duty to maximize a Veteran’s benefits.  As it stands so far, this duty is robust and even includes inferring claims for individual unemployability (“TDIU”) and special monthly compensation.

The VA must assume that the claimant is always seeking the maximum benefit allowed under law.[3]  This includes assigning the most favorable diagnostic code (“DC”) if more than one equally applies.  In Vogan v. Shinseki, the Court held that the failure of the Board of Veterans Appeals (“BVA”) to consider any other DC under which the Veteran may be entitled to additional benefits establishes prejudice.[4]  This especially comes into play when the VA is rating by analogy.  For example, when rating for an undiagnosed illness due to presumptive service connection for qualifying Persian Gulf War veterans, there will be no precise DC for the undiagnosed condition – this is because the rating tables only list conditions with diagnoses.  The VA must look for a closely related injury or illness, preferably one that affects similar functions in similar body parts and have similar symptoms.[5]  To show that the VA is considering the highest rating within any given DC, in its decision the VA must discuss the next highest rating and why the current rating is the most appropriate.

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stockfresh_2633961_burning-candles_sizeS-300x300During Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Year’s Eve, many people use candles to commemorate the holidays and decorate for the season. Lighting candles is fun a tradition and sets the mood for your holiday festivities, but it is important that certain precautions are taken so that your holidays do not end in injury or tragedy.

Home Fires

 According to statistics from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), from 2009 to 2013, fire departments in the U.S. responded to 9,300 home structure fires started by candles. Those fires resulted in the deaths of 86 people, numerous injuries, and hundreds of millions of dollars in property damage.

stockfresh_158432_buck-whitetail-deer-odocoileus-virginianus_sizeS-300x214A new report released by State Farm Insurance has found that both North Carolina and South Carolina are “high risk” states for deer accidents. South Carolina ranks 12th in the country, with 1 in 93 drivers filing a deer damage claim each year. North Carolina is close behind, with one annual deer damage claim for every 112 drivers.

These can be expensive accidents. The average deer damage claim in 2016 totaled nearly $4,000. They can also cause serious injuries and even death.

It is especially important that area motorists are on the lookout for deer during the fall driving season. Deer are most active and aggressive during the months of November and December. If you are driving this fall in rural areas of Upstate South Carolina or Western North Carolina, please keep your eyes open for deer.

Three Tips to Help You Avoid Deer Collisions

  1. Watch for the Deer Crossing Signs

Those deer crossing signs are important. They are put up in areas where deer activity is known to be especially common. While deer accidents can certainly occur outside of those marked zones, you should remain especially vigilant when driving through a deer crossing area.

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