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Knoxville Personal Injury Law Blog

Police ID victim, driver of truck

The 4th of July weekend turned into a tragedy for a Tennessee family when the father was killed after being hit by a pick-up truck. The car wreck happened shortly after the traditional 4th of July fireworks show. The 37-year-old father of two daughters was hit by the pick-up truck after he moved into the path of the oncoming vehicle to protect his oldest daughter.

The accident happened in the parking lot while people were returning to their vehicles after the show. Police reports indicate that the 65-year-old driver did not only hit the father, but a number of other people. More people were hurt by other cars, which the pick-up driver hit while reversing. Fortunately, emergency personnel were very quick to respond, because they were in the immediate vicinity due to the fireworks show.  

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) - Approval and Wait Time Statistics

I recently looked at the total length of times five of my Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) claims took from start to finish. Now I will take my regular look at the processing times and approval rates for Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) claims for East Tennessee and Eastern Kentucky. Please remember that these statistics are only for claims pending at the hearing level or Office of Disability Adjudication and Review. The claims at a hearing office have already been through the Application and Reconsideration steps (typically 6-12 months of waiting already).

Nationally:

•· Average processing time: 449 days (up from 5 days from in May)

•· 44% cases approved

Knoxville, Tennessee:

•· Average processing time: 552 days (up from 540 in April)

•· 46% cases approved

Chattanooga, Tennessee:

•· Average processing time: 528 days (up from 521 days in May)

•· 57% cases approved

Kingsport, Tennessee:

•· Average processing time: 354 days (up from 339 in April)

•· 56% cases approved

Nashville, Tennessee

•· Average processing time: 503 days

•· 46% cases approved

Franklin, Tennessee

•· Average processing time: 473 days (up from 467 days in May)

•· 52% cases approved

Middlesboro, Kentucky

•· Average processing time: 425 days (up from 410 in April)

•· 43% cases approved

Update: Driver in June truck accident named public safety hazard

The driver involved in the Tennessee accident that killed six people in late June, which was reported on in a blog post from July 1 titled "Tennessee truck accident a real tragedy" was served a court order in early July informing him that he may not operate a commercial vehicle on any interstate highway. The driver is also considered a public safety hazard. The truck accident is still under investigation.   

It is reported that the driver provided false information regarding his duty status. According to him, he went off duty on June 15 and returned to driving at 7 a.m. on the morning of  June 25, which was the day of the accident. His employer's records, obtained from its tracking system, shows a different picture. The records show that he drove on three days within this period – June 22, 23 and 24.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) - Childhood Liver Disease

I am preparing for a childhood Supplemental Security Income (SSI) hearing for a young girl with a very serious liver disorder. As discussed previously, childhood SSI benefits are decided under different rules than utilized for adult Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) claims. The requirements are actually more stringent. The SSA determines whether the child has an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the criteria of a listing, or that functionally equals the listings.

So in preparing for my hearing, the first place is to look at listing 5.05 covering chronic liver disease claims, which requires:

A. Hemorrhaging from esophageal, gastric, or ectopic varices or from portal hypertensive gastropathy, demonstrated by endoscopy, x-ray, or other appropriate medically acceptable imaging, resulting in hemodynamic instability as defined in 5.00D5, and requiring hospitalization for transfusion of at least 2 units of blood. Consider under disability for 1 year following the last documented transfusion; thereafter, evaluate the residual impairment(s).

OR

B. Ascites or hydrothorax not attributable to other causes, despite continuing treatment as prescribed, present on at least 2 evaluations at least 60 days apart within a consecutive 6-month period. Each evaluation must be documented by:

1. Paracentesis or thoracentesis; or

2. Appropriate medically acceptable imaging or physical examination and one of the following:

a. Serum albumin of 3.0 g/dL or less; or

b. International Normalized Ratio (INR) of at least 1.5.

OR

C. Spontaneous bacterial peritonitis with peritoneal fluid containing an absolute neutrophil count of at least 250 cells/mm3.

OR

D. Hepatorenal syndrome as described in 5.00D8, with on of the following:

1. Serum creatinine elevation of at least 2 mg/dL; or

2. Oliguria with 24-hour urine output less than 500 mL; or

3. Sodium retention with urine sodium less than 10 mEq per liter.

OR

E. Hepatopulmonary syndrome as described in 5.00D9, with:

1. Arterial oxygenation (PaO2) on room air of:

a. 60 mm Hg or less, at test sites less than 3000 feet above sea level, or

b. 55 mm Hg or less, at test sites from 3000 to 6000 feet, or

c. 50 mm Hg or less, at test sites above 6000 feet; or

2. Documentation of intrapulmonary arteriovenous shunting by contrast-enhanced echocardiography or macroaggregated albumin lung perfusion scan.

OR

F. Hepatic encephalopathy as described in 5.00D10, with 1 and either 2 or 3:

1. Documentation of abnormal behavior, cognitive dysfunction, changes in mental status, or altered state of consciousness (for example, confusion, delirium, stupor, or coma), present on at least two evaluations at least 60 days apart within a consecutive 6-month period; and

2. History of transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunt (TIPS) or any surgical portosystemic shunt; or

3. One of the following occurring on at least two evaluations at least 60 days apart within the same consecutive 6-month period as in F1:

a. Asterixis or other fluctuating physical neurological abnormalities; or

b. Electroencephalogram (EEG) demonstrating triphasic slow wave activity; or

c. Serum albumin of 3.0 g/dL or less; or

d. International Normalized Ratio (INR) of 1.5 or greater.

OR

G. End stage liver disease with SSA CLD scores of 22 or greater calculated as described in 5.00D11. Consider under a disability from at least the date of the first score.

Car wreck on I-40 claims 1 life, injures both drivers

Interstate 40 in Tennessee was closed for about four hours on a recent Monday morning. This followed a tragic car wreck that caused the death of a man from another state. Police reported that the accident occurred in the vicinity of Sevierville.

According to an accident report, a 61-year-old driver of a sedan was eastbound on I-40 when he apparently veered across the median and entered the westbound traffic lanes. The 55-year-old driver of a westbound vehicle was unable to avoid the collision that followed. A passenger in the westbound car -- also age 55 -- was killed on impact.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) - Length of Claims

I periodically write about the average processing times for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) claims at the hearing offices. For instance, my latest update on this was on June 4, 2015. The average processing times and hearing wait times are growing and are inexcusable. However, we are apt to forget that these claims have already been through the application and reconsideration levels. I am often asked by claimants and potential clients how long the process takes if the claim goes all the way through to a hearing and I often say it can take up to two years.

However, I decided to get a more concrete sampling. I looked at four of my Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) claims and one childhood SSI claim soon to be heard to get a better grasp of numbers involved. The SSI claim had a date of application of September 10, 2013 and the hearing occurred on July 2, 2015 making a total time of 661 days or one year, nine months, and 23 days. It was the shortest time period involved.

The SSDI claims ranged from 755 days (2 years and 25 days), 777 days (2 years, 1 month, and 17 days), 800 days (2 years, 2 months, and 9 days), up to a whopping 996 days (2 years, 8 months, and 23 days).

The variances occur most within the application and reconsideration stages where the decision making is performed by DDS. I believe such reasons have to do with the examiner involved, amount of medical evidence gathered, whether CE's were ordered, how quickly the claimant returned forms, etc. Sometimes the local office might let something fall through the crack, which can delay the processing of a claim. Regardless, all of these time periods are too long and whether a claimant is approved or denied, he or she should not have to wait so long to get a final decision.   One reform could be to eliminate the reconsideration stage throughout the nation.

Personal Injury - What is a Mediation?

Mediation is a voluntary settlement process to help parties resolve disputes. Mediation is an informal process where a mediator helps people with a dispute to reach agreement. The mediation process identifies important issues, clarifies misunderstandings, explores solutions, and negotiates settlement. Mediation is a process that brings parties together to resolve their differences through discussion and problem-solving. The goal is to achieve "win-win" solutions. It is not a compromise. The mediator is a "neutral" party who helps facilitate the dialogue, but is not the final decision-maker, arbitrator, or judge.

The mediator is not a judge and does not make a decision or impose a solution on the dispute. Rather, the mediator helps those involved in the dispute talk to each other, thereby allowing them to resolve the dispute themselves. The mediator manages the mediation session and remains impartial.

At the mediation session each person involved in the dispute presents a summary of his or her point of view. The mediator will meet with everyone together and will also meet individually with each side. This offers participants the opportunity to communicate to the mediator the real interests in the dispute outside the presence of opposing side. The mediator will work with each party until an agreement is reached that is acceptable to everyone. The agreement is put in writing and signed by the parties involved.

What are the benefits of mediation?

  • People keep control over the resolution of their own problem.
  • Disputes can be settled promptly. A mediation session can be scheduled as soon as everyone agrees to use mediation to resolve the dispute, even before a lawsuit may be filed.
  • Mediation costs are significantly less than taking a case to trial
  • Mediation promotes better relationships through cooperative problem-solving and improved communication.
  • Mediation is private and confidential. The mediator and the people in the dispute must maintain the confidentiality of the information disclosed during mediation.
  • Mediation is voluntary. Although a judge may order a case to mediation, the mediation may be terminated at any time by the people involved or by the mediator. Settlement is also entirely voluntary. If you cannot reach an agreement, you still have the right to take the dispute before a judge or jury.

Tennessee truck accident a real tragedy

One accident on a recent Thursday evening at the end of June in Tennessee has led to the death of six people. This is the most people killed in one single truck accident in the last ten years in the state. According to reports, a large truck ploughed into eight cars that were waiting at a road construction site on the highway.

All four occupants travelling in one of the cars were killed – two ladies, 31 and 50 years old, as well as two children. One of the children was eight years old, while the other was 10 or 11 years old. The other two victims were men, aged 36 and 37, each traveling in his own vehicle. Three of the deceased are from Tennessee.

Childhood Supplemental Security Income (SSI) - Growth Listing Changes

     Childhood SSI benefits are available to children from birth up to age eighteen. To qualify for childhood Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, a child must meet the Social Security Administration's definition for disability for children and the parents must have low income and few resources.   Some time back, I wrote about qualifying for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits for children due to growth impairment. These listings have now been removed by the Social Security Administration (SSA). 

     The SSA recently released a new listing for low birth weight and several other related rule changes. Listing 100.04 applies to children less than one (1) year old who are born at 32 weeks of gestation and weight less than 1250 grams. Babies weighing less than 1200 grams at birth meet a different part of the listing regardless of how many weeks of gestation they had. The SSA added 100.5 for failure to thrive for children under the age of three (3) and growth failure due to chronic respiratory disorder (103.06) and renal disease (106.08).  The rules also no longer rely on "linear growth" alone and instead realy on a child's weight-to-length ration or Body Mass Index.

New research: workplace injury higher for temporary staff

The number of temporary workers in the United States seems to be on the rise.  It is estimated that in 2013, 17 million people were employed in temporary positions across the U.S, including Tennessee. At the same time, current research shows that temporary staff has a much higher chance of suffering a workplace injury than permanent workers.

Employing workers in temporary positions involves complex arrangements and has led to a situation where a certain amount of uncertainty regarding complying with the standards for health and safety exists. Two studies, one done in 2008 and another in 2013, have both shown that the risk of severe workplace injury increases, and even doubles, when a person is employed in a temporary position. Injuries pointed out include broken bones, lacerations, puncture wounds and crushing accidents.

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