Archive for the ‘Personal Injury’ Category

Military Vets Who Used Defective Ear Plugs May be Able to Sue 3M for Hearing Loss

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Thousands of military veterans who served between 2003 and 2015 may have suffered hearing loss because they used defective combat earplugs made by 3M.

Affected military veterans may be entitled to bring a lawsuit related to the hearing loss or tinnitus they suffered as a result.

If you or a family member served in the military between 2003 and 2015 and used 3M’s Aearo Technology Combat Arms earplugs, please reach out to one of our VA attorneys to discuss your legal options. Veterans, current soldiers and military contractors may be eligible for compensation from 3M.

Even if you have not been diagnosed with hearing loss, you may have a claim. Symptoms of hearing loss may include difficulty understanding people when they are speaking, trouble hearing on the phone, ringing in the ears, the sense that other people are mumbling. Many people with hearing loss may also avoid social situations because they can’t make out conversation in noisy environments.

The earplugs, manufactured by 3M and sold to the Defense Logistics Agency, were known to be defective. But they were still provided to combat troops.

The earplugs didn’t maintain a tight seal and allowed dangerously loud sounds to slip through without the wearer knowing, according to Military Times newspaper. As a result, thousands of combat troops who used 3M’s Combat Arms earplugs are now suffering from hearing loss, tinnitus, loss of balance and other medical conditions.

3M previously agreed to pay a $9.1 million settlement as part of a False Claims Act case brought by the U.S. Justice Department. In that action, 3M was alleged to have knowingly sold its earplugs to the Defense Logistics Agency without disclosing defects that decreased the hearing protection.

Recently, a first round of civil lawsuits have been filed by military veterans against 3M in Texas. More lawsuits are expected to be filed by other affected military veterans. These cases could eventually turn into a class action against 3M. The company could be found liable and ordered to pay not only for veterans’ medical treatments but also for punitive damages because of its gross negligence in providing defective equipment to U.S. troops.

According to the initial lawsuits, “Since late 2003, 3M touted its Combat Arms earplugs as capable of allowing users to hear commands from friendly soldiers and approaching enemy combatants, unimpaired, in the same way as if they had nothing in their ears.” However, 3M employees knew as early as 2000 that the ear plugs were defective.

3M discontinued the earplugs in 2015, but by that point, it had sold 6.75 million pairs to the U.S. military. A staggering number of U.S. troops may have been injured as a result.

Please contact us if you are a current soldier, military veteran or military contractor who served between 2003 and 2015. You may be entitled to compensation if you have experienced any of the following:

  • Partial or total hearing loss
  • tinnitus, frequency or ringing in the ears
  • Headaches, dizziness or loss of balance
  • Chronic tinnitus
  • Other symptoms of hearing loss

Filing a claim against 3M will not affect your VA Disability benefits. Our experienced VA and personal injury attorneys will work hard on your behalf to ensure you receive the medical treatment, benefits and other compensation you are entitled.

Catastrophic Brain Injuries on the Rise in High School Football

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Updated January 2019.

Professional football players and athletes aren’t the only ones at risk for degenerative brain damage from concussions, hard hits and other game injuries.

Four wrongful death lawsuits have been filed against the NCAA for failing to protect college football players from head injuries, according to news reports.

There could potentially be thousands more such lawsuits, as former college and high school football players begin to experience symptoms and cognitive changes from injuries they suffered on the field.

A Boston University study of former football players brains donated to the Brain Bank found degenerative brain disease, known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, which is associated with concussions and other head trauma, in 91 percent of the former college players’ brains.

“I think we’re only seeing the beginnings of this,” said Chris Nowinski, who leads the Concussion Legacy Foundation and is the author of “Head Games: The Global Concussion Crisis.” “I think it’s likely that there are more college football players suffering from CTE than there are former NFL players in terms of gross numbers.”

In June, the NCAA settled a lawsuit with the family of a former University of Texas football player who suffered brain injuries as a player, which later led to dementia, physical and mental decline and his death at age 66. A jury in 2017 found that the NCAA was legally responsible for Greg Ploetz’s injuries and death decades after his playing career.

In 2014, as part of a settlement in a class-action lawsuit about concussions, the NCAA set up a $70 million fund to test former and current college athletes for brain injuries.

College athletes who played any sport at an NCAA member school are entitled to free medical testing and monitoring, up to two times, over the next 50 years. Athletes do not need to have been diagnosed with a concussion to be eligible for this medical monitoring. You can learn more here.

According to numerous research studies, these types of injuries are on the rise among young players, not just the pros, and they could cause long-term health problems. In fact, one study found that high school players face three times the risk of suffering a catastrophic head injury than college players.

Every day, we are learning more about chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, in football players, military veterans, boxers, hockey players and other athletes in contact sports.

The progressive, degenerative disease affects people who have suffered repeated concussions and traumatic brain injuries, according to the Brain Injury Research Institute. With CTE, the brain gradually deteriorates and loses mass over time. Some areas of the brain may atrophy over time, while other areas may become enlarged.

Patients may experience memory loss, difficulty controlling impulsive or erratic behavior, impaired judgment, behavioral disturbances including aggression and depression, difficulty with balance, and a gradual onset of dementia.

CTE is similar to Alzheimer’s disease, and it has been found in more than 85 percent of tackle football players studied in the last decade, according to the Concussion Legacy Foundation. The disease has been found in people as young as 17, but symptoms generally don’t occur until years or decades later.

If you or someone you love has CTE, or you suspect it, it’s important to seek treatment and support. The Concussion Legacy Foundation has lots of great educational information and resources for patients and their families. You may also have legal options if you’ve suffered a traumatic brain injury, CTE, concussion or other head injuries. Contact our offices for help.

CTE also has been linked to the suicides of several high-profile professional athletes and at least one murder-suicide by a pro wrestler. A new ESPN documentary, “Seau,” examines the life of legendary San Diego Chargers linebacker Junior Seau, who died in 2012 by suicide related to CTE.

According to the Concussion Legacy Foundation, a new study suggests that athletes who play contact sports athletes may also be at increased risk for Lewy Body Disease, or LBD, which can cause Parkinson’s disease.

“We found the number of years an individual was exposed to contact sports, including football, ice hockey, and boxing, was associated with the development of neocortical LBD, and LBD, in turn, was associated with parkinsonism and dementia,” said study author Thor Stein, MD, PhD, neuropathologist at VA Boston Healthcare System and assistant professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at BUSM.

Until recently, CTE only could be definitely diagnosed after death through a scan of brain tissue. Diagnosis in living patients was further complicated by the fact that symptoms of CTE — headaches, depression, memory loss, anger and impulse control issues, anxiety, sleeplessness and suicidal tendencies – can mimic other conditions.

In 2017, researchers from a Chicago area hospital reported that they had found a way to identify the disease in living patients, according to news reports. Boston University researchers have also identified a biomarker – elevated levels of a certain protein in the brain – that likely indicates CTE.


Check Out Your Doctor’s Discipline and Malpractice Record

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Have you ever wondered if your doctor has been disciplined by the state medical board or been sued for malpractice?

There are several online tools, databases and websites you can use to check out a doctor’s record and read reviews from other patients. Taking the time to do this can help ensure that you get the best treatment and care possible for your injuries. It can may also protect you from medical errors, botched surgery and malpractice.

Before choosing a doctor, it’s a good idea to conduct a background search to confirm the physician’s credentials and competency. You want to make sure there aren’t any red flags in the doctor’s past, including medical malpractice judgments and settlements, criminal convictions or professional disciplinary actions.

If you’ve been injured in a car accident, if you’ve been hurt on the job, or if you’ve suffered another personal injury, it’s important to make sure that the physicians who are treating you are qualified to do so. Depending on your particular and circumstances, you may be referred to multiple specialists, hospitals and clinics, and it’s important to check them all out to protect your overall health.

In some workers’ compensation cases, you may be required to get treatment from a doctor chosen by the insurance company, rather than your family physician or another doctor you choose. It’s always a good idea to check the credentials and disciplinary record of any physician and physician assistant the insurance company assigns you.

Unfortunately, there’s no single clearinghouse for information about physicians, their records and their competency. But with a little online research, you can find out a lot about the person who is overseeing your medical care.

Even if you like your doctor, you owe it to yourself to look up the provider’s medical license and confirm he or she is still in good standing with the state licensing board. Even the nicest provider with the best bedside manner may have black marks on his record. Anytime you are referred to a new physician or physician’s assistant, take the time to check that person’s record.

Start out by searching the North Carolina Medical Board. Here, you can find records of any disciplinary actions taken against a physician or physician’s assistant. You’ll also find records of any criminal convictions and any medical malpractice they’ve settled or lost since May 2008.

If you doctor practiced in other states before moving to North Carolina, it’s a good idea to check the medical boards in those states for any disciplinary actions. You can search the Federation of State Medical Boards or access each state’s medical board directly through this online directory. Even if you don’t think your doctor has practiced elsewhere, it’s a good idea to run a national check through to see if he or she has been sanctioned by any medical board in the United States.

You can view Drug Enforcement Administration cases against doctors here. Records are current through 2017.

Don’t forget to Google your doctor’s name. You can find out a lot of information about a person with a simple web search. Some patients and patient advocacy groups will post about their medical experiences on web sites, forums, blogs and social media.

You may also find reviews of a physician or health care practice on the provider’s web site, Facebook page or other social media accounts. Certain review sites, like Yelp, may also have ratings and reviews, submitted by patients, about doctors.

Consumer Reports recommends the following resources to check out your doctor:

Castle Connolly. Ratings of “top doctors” based on peer nominations, research, screening, and other factors. Search by name, location, hospital, specialty, or insurance. Comprehensive, easy-to-use site that allows searches by name, procedure, specialty, or condition. Includes info on education, affiliated hospitals (and ratings on the hospital itself), sanctions, malpractice claims and board actions, office locations, and insurance plans. Ratings on topics such as patient satisfaction and wait time are based on patient feedback, which can be limited.

National Committee for Quality Assurance. Reliable information on doctors who meet important standards in measures such as being a patient-centered medical home, care for heart disease, diabetes, and back pain. NCQA verifies a doctor’s licensing, but other data is self-reported.

Physician Compare. Information from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for people looking for health care providers who accept Medicare. Provides information on board certification, education, and group and hospital affiliations. Search for doctors by name, ZIP code, state, and specialty. Includes information on training as well as patient ratings on staff, punctuality, helpfulness, and knowledge. It has links to medical board records where you can get information on disciplinary actions. Patients can post questions and answers about doctors. Ratings are based on patient reviews. Find doctors by specialty, condition, insurance, name, and more. You’ll get the lowdown on a doctor’s awards, expertise, hospital affiliations, and insurance as well as patient ratings on measures such as bedside manner, follow-up, promptness, accuracy of diagnosis, and average wait time.

In addition to checking out your doctor, you may want to check out any hospital where you will be receiving care or having surgery.

Use Hospital Compare to get quality of care info about 4,000 Medicare-certified hospitals and 130 VA Medical Centers.

Check out hospitals, including children’s hospitals, at U.S. News & World Report. The magazine’s records include scorecards for a variety of procedures and see how the hospital ranks and performs in various specialties.

How to Talk to Your Doctor

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You’ve been injured, and you’re in pain so you go to the doctor. But once you’re there, you feel like the doctor isn’t saying or doing much. Or the doctor is using words or terminology you don’t understand.

It can be frustrating to feel like you’re not being heard or that you don’t understand what your diagnosis or treatment is. Some patients might not feel comfortable asking questions or questioning their doctor. But the ability to effectively talk with your doctor means he or she will be better able to help you.

Effective communication is a two-way street. There’s a lot of information about how doctors can better communicate with their patients. Some of that information discusses how doctors don’t have as much time to spend with each patient as they like. One study showed doctors spend on average about 15 minutes with each patient. When you think about it, that’s not a lot of time for the doctor to learn everything about your symptoms, your history, physically examine you, make a diagnosis and come up with a treatment plan.

So how can you make the most of that 15 minutes? Start by being prepared with a list of your symptoms and your medications, and even your questions. Having your list with you will help you remember everything rather than you trying to rely on your memory when you’re in pain. When you’ve been injured in a car wreck, you probably hurt all over. However, that might not be detailed enough information for the doctor.

Describe in detail how your injury occurred

If you were in a wreck, tell the doctor how it happened. Was it a T-bone wreck or head on? How fast were you going when you were hit? Did your car spin after impact? Did the airbags deploy?

If you fell off a dock at work and now have elbow pain, show the doctor how you landed and use your hands to show how high up the dock is.

Describe your symptoms

Because doctors can’t “see” pain, they only know what you’re telling them about your pain. Try to be descriptive about what’s happening.

For example, is your lower back pain sharp or dull? Is it worse in the morning or at night or with certain activities such as bending over to tie your shoes or sitting at a desk all day? Does the back pain seem to go down your leg?

If you have shoulder pain, does it hurt when you try to put on a jacket? Does it hurt in the front, back or top of your shoulder? Be sure to point to the specific areas that hurt. For instance if you say your lower back hurts, but you’re pointing to your hip, the doctor knows to look there.

Describe how the injury has affected you

Your doctor may or may not know what you were physically capable of doing prior to your injury, so try to share examples. For instance, if prior to your injury, you picked up extra shifts as a CNA, but now you can’t because your legs give out when trying to lift a patient, that’s important information to give your doctor.

Or perhaps you had no trouble working on spreadsheets on a computer all day, but now you’re having trouble concentrating and are making mistakes. Even describing common tasks that you can no longer do such as getting a gallon of milk out of the refrigerator or vacuuming or mowing the yard will be helpful information to your doctor.

Ask questions

If you injured your back lifting heavy equipment at work and the doctor mentions spondylosis or medial branch blocks, you may not know what he or she is referring to. Don’t be afraid to ask. Many doctors may even show you on a chart or a model of a spine what they are suggesting.

Most importantly, don’t wait for the doctor to ask you questions. Most doctors will ask lots of questions, but don’t mistakenly assume that because your doctor didn’t ask, there’s no need to volunteer the information or it must not be important. You best know your body, your job and your home life, so be sure to share the information you have so that the doctor can do the best job to help you recover.

Visit this link for more tips on how to talk to your doctor and how to understand your doctor.

What you need to know about ride sharing services and the law

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When the transportation app Uber was officially launched in 2011, it was both praised for providing consumers with easier and less expensive transportation options and criticized as unfair competition and dangerous.

Fans of the service, and the similar app Lyft, immediately liked the cheaper fares and the ease of using their smartphone to arrange pick-ups. Some praised it for allowing individuals to make extra money using their cars.

Uber has since grown into a $40-billion company. It didn’t take long after the launch for some cracks to appear in this transportation revolution. Several media outlets and consumer safety groups started questioning the business practices of Uber, such as the screening process and qualifications for drivers. Questions also arose about whether those drivers are employees of Uber or independent contractors.

This new type of transportation arrangement also presented legal issues regarding who is responsible when something goes wrong.

These types of companies are referred to by lawmakers as Transportation Network Companies (TNC).

Taxicab companies are often highly regulated by state laws requiring training of drivers and proof of liability insurance. But Uber contended that it was only providing a platform in the new “sharing economy.” In other words, Uber was only providing a way for people who need a service to connect with people who provide a service, and therefore Uber couldn’t be held responsible or legally liable for the actions of the individuals using the platform.

Uber argued they were exempt from many of the regulations imposed by the states where they conducted business. In response, Uber faced heavy opposition and was even banned in some states and cities. State lawmakers struggled with the tension between innovation demanded by consumers and regulation of commercial activity that protects those same consumers. Uber then actively lobbied for laws more favorable to them.

These transportation companies also found themselves at odds with insurers, who have been quite clear that “personal automobile insurance is not intended to cover people who use their vehicles for commercial purposes,” according to an article in Insurance Journal.

A highly publicized fatal wreck involving an Uber driver and a 6-year old pedestrian in California brought into focus the issue of who caries liability insurance in a sharing economy.

At the time of the wreck, the Uber driver didn’t have a passenger but he was logged into the Uber app between rides. Uber had a liability policy providing up to $1 million in coverage but said they were not liable since the driver didn’t have a passenger.

That would mean the driver’s policy, which likely carried much less coverage, was the only policy from which the family of the little girl could recover. However, standard personal automobile insurance policies exclude coverage for people who use their vehicles for commercial purposes, meaning there would be no policy from which the family could recover.

Responding to negative publicity after the accident, Uber eventually backpedaled on its policy and said it would cover drivers with the app activated but not yet carrying a passenger.

The girls’ family settled a lawsuit against Uber in 2015. Terms were not disclosed.

North Carolina lawmakers addressed this issue in 2015 when they passed legislation requiring drivers transporting individuals via a Transportation Network Company, such as Uber and Lyft, to carry $1.5 million per accident in bodily injury coverage.

If the TNC driver is logged in to the app but not providing service, there must be $50,000 per person, $100,000 per accident coverage. The law further stated that the coverage could be maintained by the TNC driver, the TNC or any combination of the driver and company. The new law also says that “a TNC driver is an independent contractor and not an employee,” which would impact a drivers’ ability to make a workers’ compensation claim.

In a future blog post, one of my colleagues will talk about how workers’ compensation laws apply to Uber and Lyft drivers.

As our economy changes and new technology and services emerge, new legal issues arise.

Do you  traditional taxicabs be replaced by Uber and other ride-sharing services? As the sharing economy grows and changes, what other novel legal issues will lawmakers be called upon to address? We’d love to know your thoughts.


Your social media posts may impact your workers’ comp or injury case

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“Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.”

If you’ve watched any cop shows or movies, you’re probably familiar with those words. While Miranda rights only apply in criminal cases, those words are true even in civil cases.

What you say to the insurance adjuster, to your friends, coworkers and family members and even online on social media, can effect the outcome of your personal injury case or workers’ compensation claim. This applies to statements that seem to have little to do with your auto accident or injury.

The insurance company is looking for ways to discredit you and for reasons to deny your claim. Often, plaintiffs unwittingly give them the legal ammunition to do so with things they say off the cuff or online or without an attorney present.

Our advice is always that our clients should not talk to an insurance adjuster without an attorney present. Also, be careful about what you share online on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and other social networks, and also with whom you share that information.

A recent ruling by the North Carolina Court of Appeals sets a relatively low bar for authenticating information posted on social media.

The case in question, State v. Ford, was a criminal case, but what it says about social media evidence could also impact civil court cases, including workers’ compensation and auto accident claims.

The case involved a pit bull that attacked and killed a man living next door to the dog and its owner. Evidence was admitted in his criminal trial of a MySpace account that contained photos of the defendant and of the dog. Also admitted at trial were posts about the aggressive nature of the dog.

The defendant, who was the owner of the dog, was convicted, but appealed arguing the state had failed to prove he actually posted the photos and captions himself. His attorneys argued that the court should have provided additional evidence, such as the IP address where the photos and captions were posted. But the appeals court ruled the evidence presented was sufficient.

If you read the case, there was substantial other evidence conclusively linking the dog to the owner and the mauling, and the social media accounts were only one part of the prosecution’s case. But the gist of the ruling about social media is clear: The burden to authenticate social media is really low and can be based on purely circumstantial evidence.

So, anything posted on your account could be used against you.

We always warn our clients to be careful about postings on social media, and this ruling brings it home that a social media account can be incredibly harmful to your case.

In legal proceedings, information is power. If you start essentially giving that away by over sharing or publishing too many details of your life on social media, you are giving away the power you have in the case, to some degree.

Some things you should keep in mind if you have an ongoing workers’ comp or personal injury case:

  • When you talk to other people about your injury, they can be called to testify. Hearsay rules do not apply to statements made by plaintiffs in civil cases.
  • The only person who cannot be called to testify is your spouse. Coworkers, friends, neighbors, the guy at the convenience store and anyone else you talk to can be called to testify.
  • Quite often, coworkers are called to testify in workers’ compensation cases, and they will be asked not only about the accident but also about things you said the accident and your injury.

The Social Media Trap

Now let’s talk specifically about social media.

We live in a world where we’re constantly connected, and lots of people share many details of their lives on social media.

If you’re injured at work or in an accident that is someone else’s fault, you don’t have to unplug from social media. But you do need to be aware of how your posts, tweets and Instagram snapshots might be used in court against you. Even the hashtags you use or the places you check in via apps like Foursquare might come into play in your case.

I’ve seen it happen with my own clients.

One client, who had an injury claim, went out to a bar with friends one night and posted about it on social media. The other side tried to use that status as evidence that his injury wasn’t as serious as he claimed and didn’t affect his daily quality of life. The rationale was that if he could enjoy a night out with friends, then he must not really be hurt.

All because of a Facebook status.

We recommend that our clients use the highest privacy setting available on social media so the things you post are only viewable by close friends and family members. Even so, you need to remember that there’s no real privacy online.

It’s very likely the insurance company and their attorneys will see what you have posted, whether they find it on their own, someone shares it with them or we’re required by the court to provide it to them.

While we don’t expect you to stop using social media, be wise about it. If you have posted something you think could be misinterpreted or used against you in your case, let us know so we can make a plan for how to deal with it.

Don’t delete those posts. Even if they disappear from your Facebook wall or your Twitter feed, they haven’t really been erased. Plus, the N.C. Bar Association has issued some specific rules about deleting social media posts. Hitting delete may cause even more problems.

The lesson here is be careful what you say – and in many cases, it may be best not to say anything at all. The more information you put out in the world, the more likely it’s going to be used against you. #truth

Hospitals Fail to Protect Nurses from Injuries

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You probably don’t think of nursing as a dangerous profession.

But each year, more than 35,000 nurses, orderlies and nurses assistants suffer back and arm injuries that are serious enough that they have to miss work, according to surveys from the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

A recent NPR series found that nursing employees “suffer roughly three times the rate of back and other musculoskeletal injuries as construction laborers,” all in the course of their everyday job duties — lifting and moving patients.

These are not minor injuries, but life changing ones that may require multiple surgeries and a cocktail of prescription drugs and pain medications. Many injured nurses lose their careers because of their injuries and will endure chronic pain and mobility issues for the rest of their lives.

Research has shown that there’s no safe way for nurses to move patients manually without risking serious injury to themselves. 

“The bottom line is, there’s no safe way to lift a patient manually,” William Marras, director of The Ohio State University’s Spine Research Institute, which has conducted landmark studies on the issue, told NPR “The magnitude of these forces that are on your spine are so large that the best body mechanics in the world are not going to keep you from getting a back problem.”

Yet hospitals continue to stress the same safe patient handling techniques and protocols when there’s a better solution that would prevent a majority of back and arm injuries in nurses. There is equipment available to help nurses move patients safely, without risk of injury, but few hospitals are wiling to invest money in these lifts, hoists and other devices, NPR found.

And only 10 states have comprehensive programs specifically designed to protect nursing staff at hospitals. North Carolina is not one of them.


 One of the nurses profiled in the NPR series worked at Asheville’s Mission Hospital. Though her injury clearly happened on the job, the hospital tried to deny her workers’ compensation benefits by claiming it happened while she was at home. You can listen to that story here

Listen to the full NPR series about nurses and workplace injuries here.

Beware of scam emails: they may look and sound official, but they’re not

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A client recently forwarded me an official-sounding email he received that mentioned his court case and also referenced problems with his Social Security number.

The email, which appeared to come from another law firm, said the client was facing criminal charges for fraud, among other things. It also said his Social Security number had been “put on hold by the U.S. government” until legal matters were resolved. It also said that the client would owe close to $12,000 in legal fees if convicted of these so-called charges.

Our client was smart to be suspicious of this email.

It was a fake. A fraud. It’s what is known as a phishing scam — when Internet fraudsters impersonate a business or government agency to trick you into giving out your personal information. Phishing emails may also be used to transmit viruses to your computer., which investigates and fights cyber crime advises:

Never reply to email, text, or pop-up messages that ask for your personal or financial information. Don’t click on links within them either – even if the message seems to be from an organization you trust. It isn’t. Legitimate businesses don’t ask you to send sensitive information through insecure channels. 

Don’t open attachments on emails from people you don’t trust. And even if an email appears to come from someone you know, be careful before opening an attachment. The message that appears to come from your friend or family member may actually be from a hacker or phishing scammer.

Be wary of calling phone numbers included in phishing emails. They may be fraudulent, as well.

If you receive a scam email, you may want to forward it to [email protected]. If the email message mentions a specific bank, company or organization, forward it to them, as well. You also may report phishing emails to [email protected].

If you think you may have been tricked by a phishing email:

Another McDonald’s Hot Coffee Lawsuit

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A second hot coffee lawsuit against McDonald’s?


Another woman has sued McDonald’s after she suffered serious burns when scalding hot coffee from the fast food chain spilled on her lap.

In a case that is eerily similar to what happened to Stella Liebeck, Joan Fino, an elderly California woman, ordered two cups of coffee at a McDonald’s drive-thru in California. The top wasn’t secure on one of the cups of coffee and it spilled in her lap, causing Fino to suffer severe burns to her groin area.

The same thing happened to Liebeck 21 years ago, and she became a national punchline and poster child for so-called “frivolous” lawsuits. The public is finally getting the real story about what happened to Liebeck thanks to the documentary “Hot Coffee.”

The latest case in California seems to indicate that McDonald’s is still serving coffee at dangerous temperatures, despite more than 1,000 complaints and numerous injuries suffered by Liebeck and others.

Nicholas Wagner, an attorney for Fino told the Huffington Post McDonald’s is sacrificing customer safety so its coffee will taste fresh for longer.

Wagner claims that McDonald’s keeps its coffee at dangerously high temperatures so that it tastes fresh for longer periods of time and less coffee is wasted.

“Despite over 1,000 complaints from customers about being burned by the coffee, McDonald’s still continues to brew the coffee at such an exceptionally high temperature,” Wagner said. “They are saving more in production costs in brewing coffee and serving at such high temperature than it costs them to settle the cases with these people who have been injured.”

This is a case that bears watching.

We certainly hope that Ms. Fino’s injuries are taken seriously by the public and that she’s not subjected to the same type of ridicule Ms. Liebeck suffered. But we also know big business and the insurance industry have huge financial incentives to perpetuate the myth of the frivolous lawsuit.

New low-cost health clinic set to open in Greensboro; still few options for affordable health care

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There’s a bit of good news for people who don’t have health insurance and can’t afford to pay for medical care.

Triad Adult and Pediatric Medicine has received a federal grant under the Affordable Care Act to open a health clinic for low-income residents, the Triad Business Journal reported recently.

Unfortunately, the new clinic will not make up for the gap in affordable health care options created by the closing of HealthServe.

HealthServe had about 8,500 active patients — 70 percent of them were uninsured with no way to pay for healthcare. Patients paid on a sliding scale, based on their income. Most HealthServe clients were not covered by Medicaid.

The clinic was their safety net.

The new clinic to be opened by HealthServe’s parent company, Triad Adult & Pediatric Medicine, unfortunately will not serve as broad a population. The new clinic, which will have two medical providers and a staff of about 12 people, will be able to treat about 3,500 patients annually, mostly the homeless and people living in public housing.

That still leaves a large population of people without access to affordable health care. In Guilford County has few options for free and low-cost health care, so many people don’t get the medical care they need.

Be sure to also check out the listings at the Guilford County Community Care Network.

There are no details yet on when the new TAPM clinic will open or where it will be located. We’ll continue to share news about that clinic and other low-cost and no-cost healthcare options as news is available.

Labor Day Travel Safety Tips

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This weekend is Labor Day, the holiday that celebrates workers.

We hope you have fun plans for the end-of-summer hurrah. And we also hope you’ll stay safe over the holiday weekend.

With so many people traveling, spending time at the pool, beach or lake and grilling out, Labor Day can be a prime time for injuries.

The National Safety Council estimates nearly 400 people will die in automobile accidents over the Labor Day weekend, and some 42,000 people will suffer injuries requiring medical treatment.

Wearing your seatbelt — and making sure others in the car with you buckle up, too — is one of the smartest safety measures you can take this weekend.

The National Safety Council estimates that seatbelts will save 143 lives this weekend. And if everyone buckled up, the number of Labor Day traffic fatalities would be reduced by 100.

“NSC issues fatality estimates for major holiday periods to draw attention to the need for drivers to exercise safe driving practices, especially when a significant number of drivers are expected to be on our nation’s roads,” said Janet Froetscher, NSC president and CEO.

Thanks to lower gas prices and an improving economy, AAA Carolinas estimates a 5 percent increase in Labor Day travel this weekend by North Carolinians.

An expected 972,600 North Carolina residents will travel more than 50 miles from home during the five-day holiday travel period, which ends Monday.

To ensure a safe Labor Day holiday weekend, NSC recommends drivers:

  • Establish and enforce a distraction-free zone, especially in cars equipped with electronic devices including cell phones, global positioning systems and other in-vehicle technology (We’ve warned about distracted driving before.)
  • Make sure all passengers are buckled up and children are in safety seats appropriate for their age and size
  • Allow plenty of travel time to avoid frustration and diminish the impulse to speed
  • Drive defensively and exercise caution, especially during inclement weather
  • Designate a non-drinking driver or plan for alternative transportation, such as a taxi

The American Red Cross also suggests that drivers carry an emergency supply kit in their trunk. It’s also a good idea to let someone know your destination, your route, and when you expect to arrive.

Roadways aren’t the only place where you need to exercise caution this weekend.

Swimming pools, lakes, beaches and backyard barbecues also pose risks.

Follow these Labor Day safety tips from the American Red Cross to ensure that your holiday celebrations remain fun and safe.

Tips for Safe Swimming

  • Check weather and water conditions beforehand and throughout the day.
  • Always swim with a buddy in a designated swimming area supervised by a lifeguard.
  • Provide constant supervision to children in or near the water and always stay within arm’s reach of young children and inexperienced swimmers while they are in the water.
  • Young children and inexperienced swimmers should wear U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets.

Tips for Safe Grilling

  • Keep the grill away from the house, tree branches, or anything that could catch fire.
  • Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Keep children and pets away from the grill.
  • Never add charcoal starter fluid when coals have already been ignited.


What Kind of Happy Are You? It Could Affect Your Health

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It should come as no surprise that stress and depression can affect your physical well-being and make it more difficult to recover from physical injuries.

But did you realize that the source of your happiness also has an impact on your health?

Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill studied how different types of happiness impacted people’s cells. And what they discovered was groundbreaking.

According to CNN:

You feel happiness all the way down to your genes, scientists say. But the kind of happiness you’re feeling matters, as different kinds can have wildly different effects on your physical well-being.

In fact, the happiness you get from instant gratification — eating that giant cupcake or buying that fabulous pair of shoes — may have the same physical impact on your genes as depression or stress, according to a groundbreaking study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“I’ve been studying the physical and psychological impact of positive emotion for 20 years, (and) the pattern of results we found with this study completely surprised me,” said the lead author, Barbara Fredrickson.

For this study, researchers were concerned with two different types of happiness — happiness that comes from self gratification and happiness that comes from pursing the greater good.

The first type of happiness, from self-gratification, comes from things like eating great food or smelling beautiful flowers.

But the second type of happiness results from a “a sustained effort at working toward something bigger than you. In other words, it’s working toward a sense of meaning in your life or contributing to some kind of cause.”

Researchers discovered that small bursts of happiness (from self-gratification) produce the same reaction in genes as stress and misery. The body’s white blood cells produce inflammation, which over time can damage healthy tissue.

Prolonged, low levels of inflammation in the body “can cause exhaustion. They also increase a person’s risk for cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer’s and can damage various tissues wherever the white blood cells are causing inflammation where they shouldn’t be, Colorado College microbiologist Phoebe Lostroh said.”

But scientist did not observe the same phenomenon in people who derived their happiness from a purpose in life or the good they do for others.

One lesson here is if you want to do good for yourself physically, then do good for others. Seek happiness not through consumption, but through giving and finding meaning in life.

We’d all be happier and healthier, and it would be a better world, if we focused on bringing good to others than on instant gratification.

To reach more about the effects of happiness on health, visit CNN.