Giving Good Testimony

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Beware! These technologies can ruin your Personal Injury case

The ground-breaking advancement in technology over the past decade has impacted the lifestyles of many of the world’s inhabitants. As more and more avant-garde technology permeates into our life, we tend to become more reliant on it in our day to day activities. Technological devices provide a wide palate of tangible benefits as well as a plethora of intangible benefits. One such technology is social media. With the advent of social media sites like face-book, twitter, linkedin, Pinterest, etc., there has been a paradigm shift as to how we communicate on daily basis. Whether it is the way we celebrate or express our grief, anger, rebel, etc., social media has taken the center-stage.  All in all:  social media has given us a platform to showcase our expressions and desires.

However, what is meat for others can be a poison for some, especially for those who are claiming for personal injury benefits. Social Media can mar your chances of getting benefits under personal injury. In the recent case of Alan Danagher and Glantine Inns Limited (2010 IEHC 214) ***, the Plaintiff claimed damages for an assault on him, by the Defendants security staff at a night club. The Plaintiff in his claim stated that the security staff had strangled him by the throat while trying to break a fight and removing him from the scene, and in the folly left him asphyxiated and chocked. In this squabble, the Plaintiff complained of suffering from soft tissue injuries to his neck and back, which he stated required compelling physiotherapy. He stated that not only did this incident force him to quit his high profile job in rugby and boxing, but also developed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder with symptoms of sullen mood, anxiety and nightmares. Such conditions he stated made him avert social gatherings and night clubs where he used to frequent because he always felt  cold feet. All was set for the case to go in the favour of the Plaintiff, when suddenly the juries observed some evidence contrary to what the Plaintiff claimed. Some evidences, which unknowingly put forward by the Plaintiff himself, strengthened the case for the Defendant. Entries such as these in the wall of the plaintiffs face book page like:

“Activities: playing hurling, rugby and Gaelic football. 
Favourite music: anything that will get me dancing and hitting the roof.” ***

And

“Ya I tink we mit be going out alrite, ul probably come across me drunk on a dance floor somewhere during d night anyway,” ***

The posts showed the out and out discrepancy to the claims he was trying to put forward regarding his lifestyle. Self authored entries in Facebook by the Plaintiff showed his enthusiasm and participation in sports like rugby, hurling and Gaelic Football.

Video tape evidence from the night club also proved that the Plaintiff was not chocked by the security staffs at all; instead, they acted in a very professional manner tying to stop the fight and remove the Plaintiff from the scene as he stood on someone’s head. The plaintiff was also seen to have been participating in a parachute jump in a charity event six months after the event which was covered by a local news paper. The court concluded that the plaintiff had deliberately misled the court by overstating his injuries and engaged in the act of dishonesty. The Judge dismissed the claims made by the Plaintiff against the Night club on the grounds of dishonest fraudulent claims.

The case above shows how a post in the social media can wreck your case. You should be very careful what you post in the media while your case is going on. as a Plaintiff, you not only need to be careful about what you post in social media, but also what you do publicly.  If you are claiming for a spinal cord injury and there is video footage showing you dancing in a night club, there will be enough evidence to mar your chances for getting a favourable verdict. Always keep in mind that you are under surveillance when your case is going on. Do not be naïve and assume that defense attorneys are tied to the office; they have numerous resources- including private investigation- to track your daily activities.

As the face of personal injury law is changing and lawyers are trying their hands at various routes of technologies, one needs to use technology diligently and judiciously so that it can be used in their favour, instead of against it.  At The Upton law firm, lawyers bring to the table years of experience handling personal injury claims by helping legitimate victims get their claims quickly.  If you have any questions about how you should handle your personal injury claim or about the material in this blog post, contact us today.

Innovation by Google raises aspirations for PI Claimants

Technology Giant Google has come out with a technology that can give an upper hand to applicants claiming for personal injury benefits.  Coined as Google Glass, it is a wearable computer with an optical head mounted display that displays information in a hands free format via smart phones. Wearers can communicate with the internet through voice commands using their natural voice.

It is sans doubt that Google will have a lot of takers for this product, which is yet to be made available for the public, but one business has already begun its usage in a novel way. Arizona based law firm Fennemore Craig has already spearheaded the usage of Google Glass in a contemporary way to convey clients evidence to judges, mediators, and jury. Code named Glass Action, the law firm which pioneered this process has equipped several personal injury clients and businessmen with this technology. One such client is Mr. Gary Verrazono * a double amputee who lost an arm and a leg in a work accident in 2012 and had filed an application for Personal Injury Benefits. The device helps him to stream his daily chores in the form of videos, which are streamed to his lawyers and also help him send a text, email, or even teleconference with his attorneys. The leverage does not stop here but moves further by helping the claimant and lawyers have access to case documents anytime and anywhere. It also gives the Jurors first hand information of the subtlety of the challenges faced in the daily life of the victim.

As Law Boards and Departments across the country are tightening their noose against fraudulent and dishonest claimants, a tenacious technology like this can give a boost to legitimate applicant’s claims. While private eyes and defendant attorneys are probing every social site to gather information on claimants to find evidence that can refute a fraudulent claim, a technology like this can surely breathe in oxygen for those deserving the P I benefits.

Although technology cannot win your case for you, it certainly can act as a catalyst to help in the claim process. One does need the helping hand of a competent lawyer whose proficiency and efficacy can determine the outcome of the claim and help the victim get a recovery. Contact our experience lawyers today for more information on how we can help you with your case.

America’s Growing Problem – Social Security Disability Program on the Verge of Insolvency

Enrollment for the Social Security Disability Insurance Program reached a record high of 8.85 million into 2014, an increase of 1.6 million since the start of the Great Recession in 2007. This sudden surge is pushing the financially impoverished system towards the brink of insolvency. The penurious conditions intensify as the generation of “baby boomers” ages and the stampede for benefits increase along with laid-off workers. As the CBO report states, the increase in expenditure and the backlog of applicants is enough to cause the funds to dry up which might lead to a complete depletion of funds by 2016; two years earlier than predicted. Can this be attributed to the fundamental flaws in the management of the SSDI program? A majority of economists say yes.

The argument put forward by economists is that the US disability programs act as more of a long term unemployment program rather than being a last resort for those who are unable to work due to their health related impairments.

Why is there a shortfall in the Disability Trust Fund?

Social security is a pay-as-you–go system; which means that benefits are immediately paid from the payments collected. Disability Insurance is funded by the contribution of the workers through a dedicated share of payroll tax contributions along with the contributions of employers making an equal contribution towards it. The system received a jolt during the recession in 2007 when wages became stagnant and lay-offs became rampant. The post-recession period saw a surge in applications. The issue with this was that most of the applications were marginal cases who could have continued to work with proper intervention. The administrative flaws led to a Catch22 situation- pushing the program to a verge of insolvency.

As the number of applications skyrockets, policy makers brainstorm to find ways to improve the system, they are faced with two precarious issues – (a) reducing the time limit for legitimate applicants in getting the benefits and (b) finding legitimate applicants. While Congress is trying to plug in the loopholes targeting overpayments and identifying those people who no longer qualify for disability benefits, it can be an ordeal for those legitimate applicants as the application process becomes more complex. Time can only tell whether the officials can shed their presumptions and identify legitimate applicants and help them get their benefits without much delay.

Economists say a transfer of funds from Old Age and Survivors Insurance trust fund to the Disability Insurance trust fund can provide the necessary Band Aid or alternatively, a small increase in payroll tax rate could pump in some oxygen to the cash strapped program; although this could be a bitter pill to swallow.

Jobs are just not there for young GIs returning home

I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity.
– Dwight D Eisenhower

Post 9/11, young veterans returning from the battle field of Iraq or Afghanistan are finding it an uphill task to get a job.  Despite efforts by the government in the form of tax credits and benevolent efforts by companies like Walmart, jobs are still not a cup of Joe for a Joe!

An Air Force Captain having a mechanical degree from the University of Southern California laments that in spite of having a mechanical degree, he is still jobless as companies interview him but end up hiring someone else.

Where lays the crux of the problem? The bone of contention as many employers put is the fact that these veterans find it difficult to transfer military experience to actual civilian work.  The apple of discord not only limits to this; an inadequate coordination in efforts to aid veterans finding their jobs, PSTD, and combat related mental health related issues all add up to the ordeal. Another problem which looms large is deciphering or understanding what these soldiers want to say.  Civilians that did not serve in the Military fail to understand what the veterans want to say about their experience, and this is creating a lacuna resulting in an army of discontent veterans. “I know how to lead soldiers” says an army captain visiting a job fair at San Jose, “but now I will be dealing with civilians, and I don’t know if I have the skills companies want.”

In their report for 2012, the Bureau of Labor and Statistics states that unemployment rate for veterans aged between 25 and 34 hovered around 10.6%, compared to the national civilian figure of 8.2%, and it was around 20.4% for those veterans in the bracket of 18 to 24 compared to the civilian statistics of 15%. To further the problem, these numbers can escalate quickly as approximately 1 million people are about to retire from active duty in a span of 5 years.

Head hunters and job consultants say that since most of the veterans go straight from high school to join the army, when they return back home, they find it difficult to get a decent job, even though they are at dire straits putting their resumes in order and cutting across the military jargons and acronyms. Employers do not understand what an “Infantry Squad leader” actually means and how they can relate this position to their corporate environment. Another problem that many HR companies feel that abstains an employer from hiring a veteran is perhaps the stigma of the mental health issues or PTSD. Assumptions that almost every veteran might suffer from PTSD keeps a lot of employer sitting on the fence. Unfortunately, these assumptions are not unfounded by statistics: it is said that 1 in 5 combat veterans return home with some form of PTSD.

To combat this, the US Chamber of commerce is taking initiatives such as creating job fairs like Hiring our Heroes, which resulted in more than 18,400 veterans and their spouses getting jobs in the years 2011-2012 and introduced the employers to a talent pool. Perhaps this dogma that veterans are unemployable can be removed if businesses and non-profit organizations band together to help veterans brush up their skills and help them learn how to transform their battle field experience to a civilian work environment.

Delays and Denials in Veterans Benefits – Service men and women feel betrayed!

Ex-servicemen feel betrayed due to the sluggish nature of Veteran Affairs. A rally recently brought out by some outraged soldiers in Ottawa, Canada, echoed the same grudge against the Veteran Affairs which can be heard across the Globe. The delay in releasing benefits  has always struck a note of discord among war veterans across all geographical boundaries. As Lord Alfred Tennyson stated in his poem years ago “Into the valley of Death :    Rode the six hundred” These soldiers are fearless in the battle field, but what keeps their blood pressure running high is within the country; fighting a perpetual battle for claims which they rightfully deserve. In this David vs Goliath battle, these men and woman who are taught to fight against all odds, seem too feeble and lackadaisical.

Finding a good and competent lawyer can be their best way to get some respite. The bone of contention in most cases lies with the bureaucratic problem and the goof ups that have stemmed, perhaps due to the surge in the number of pending cases and also the devil-may care attitude of the department. However, there seems to be some light at the end of the tunnel as The President has expressed concerns about the way the department of VA is functioning. He is seeking help from other quarters as well, outside the cordon of the army, when he expressed his intention to nominate Mr. Robert. A McDonald, a former chief executive of Procter and Gamble, with the speculation that a person from a global corporate world can turn around the system which is rocked by allegations of mismanagement. It certainly won’t be easy for Mr. McDonald as he, if confirmed, will take over a department plagued with operational and technological dysfunctions, ebbing morale, hostility towards whistle blowers, and skepticism among veterans fanning the flames. Along with these he will be faced with an uphill task of helping those returning from the battlefield with serious injuries or psychological problems to get their benefits in a timely manner.

As the onus is on the VA to significantly increase their transparency and accountability, there is also a huge requirement for doctors, nurses and other medical staff, which stems up from the surge in claims from those new veterans returning from the battle field of Iraq and Afghanistan. What needs to be seen is how the VA handles the situation going forward into the next few years.