You’d Better Read This Before You Let Your Child Swim in Area Lakes

Lake-1During the past few months we’ve seen numerous startling social media photos and posts from Alabama parents whose children have been breaking out in sores and infections after swimming in some area lakes.

The painful, open sores are caused by staph infections, and have been popping up from children who have been swimming in Lewis Smith Lake and Lake Logan Martin. Local news reports here and here describe the potential risks and symptoms. You can also check water quality reports at the Logan Martin Lake Protection Association website.

The best way to keep your child safe, besides foregoing swimming in these lakes, is to make sure they don’t have open sores when they do take a plunge. Also, you are advised to make sure they bathe (on physician suggested a Clorox bath) immediately after getting out of the lake.

Firehouse Shelter Serves Vital Need in Birmingham

JonesOne of our absolute favorite charities is The Firehouse Shelter located in downtown Birmingham. Shortly after we bought the building which has been our home now for more than 30 years, The Firehouse Shelter opened as a men’s homeless shelter with the primary goal to meet the food, shelter, and clothing needs of homeless men in this metropolitan area. The original mission has been greatly expanded.

A community garden has been planted in the Smithfield neighborhood where volunteers plant seed, tend to the garden, and harvest the crops. The food is brought to the shelter, prepared and cooked for the men who visit every day. There is not a specific limit on the length of a stay, therefore, the men they serve are more chronically homeless and the staff is able to establish a deeper involvement with each man. They provide a variety of services, including meals, clothing, addiction recovery help, free legal counsel, transportation to health services, job interview training, art therapy, and tutoring.

The main fundraiser for the shelter is an annual banquet which our representatives have attended for several years. This year the main speaker was Barrett Jones, who is now an NFL player but has a strong connection to Alabama due to the three national championship rings he won while playing football for the Crimson Tide. While David Wininger is a fairly large human being (too big some say), the attached photo will give you some idea as to the size of Barrett. This year we sat with his mother and brother at the annual dinner and learned that Barrett has become an accomplished speaker whose heart is in the right place. The Firehouse Shelter is rescuing hope and saving lives.

Time is Critical After Auto Accidents

If you, a loved one or friend are injured in a wreck, please remember that the most important time to begin a thorough investigation into the facts and circumstances surrounding the wreck is, well, immediately. Let me explain why time is of the essence in wreck investigation.

The big insurance companies have teams of investigators and lawyers whose entire lives are spent doing whatever they can to save their companies money. While you are being transported by Ambulance for emergency treatment, the insurance companies have already assigned an investigation team to visit and photograph the wreck scene, the damaged vehicles and to scour the area for witnesses who might have seen the wreck. Do not for a second believe that these insurance companies are conducting a fair and balanced investigation. They are solely and exclusively searching for evidence and testimony that might prove that the wreck was not the fault of their policy holder, but that the wreck was partially your fault, thereby relieve the insurance company from its obligation to pay for your injures and damages.

Having represented injury victims since 1964, we at the Wininger Law Firm, are very experienced in wreck investigation and can have lawyers, staff and certified investigators arrive at the scene quickly enough to document the movement of the vehicles involved, photograph and videotape the scene to speak with witnesses, and also to ensure that no one tampers with any evidence.

We recommend that everyone in your family carry one of our lawyers’ business cards so that we can begin our investigation as soon as you give us the authority to do so. One of our Firm’s mottos is “Start ahead and stay ahead.” Usually, the sooner we are able to become involved in the investigation and prosecution of your claim, the better the results. Don’t allow the insurance company’s minions to sabotage or devalue your valid claim. Call us immediately so we may begin working for you.

When it Comes to Lawsuits, Fear the Facebook

Last year a daughter cost her father $80,000 when she posted on her Facebook profile that he received a settlement from his former employer. The settlement came with a confidentiality agreement preventing the father and his wife from telling anyone of the settlement. They told their daughter and then she blasted it to her 1,200 Facebook friends, some of whom still worked for the employer.

Did the parents violate the agreement? According to the courts, yes.

The lesson, besides not violating a confidentiality agreement, is that you should not, under any circumstances, release material related to litigation (yours or someone you know) on social media. That’s true for current cases, prior cases, or potential cases. It’s likely anything you say will get into the wrong hands.

Who’s Texting and Driving? It’s Not Who You Think

You may assume it’s only those crazy teens who can’t keep their hands off their phones while behind the wheel, but according to research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety it is adults ages 25-39 who were most likely to report that they text while driving. Those over 60 were least likely to text and drive.

It’s a risky behavior. If you spend five seconds with your eyes off the road while you are traveling at 55 mph, you will travel the length of the football field. There are some simple remedies to this distracting and potentially dangerous activity:

  • Turn off your phone or put it in the trunk before you start the car.
  • There are several apps available that you can use to help you. DriveModeDriveScribe, TxtShield, Live2Txt, Canary, and SafeDrive are just a few available for iPhones or Android smart phones.
  • If you’re traveling with a friend, let them answer your phone or send texts.

Using these measures can potentially save you from a wreck and can also serve as an example to your children, who may pick up the bad habit from you and put themselves in danger.

Rickwood Classic an Ideal Time to See Legendary Field

Rickwood-Field-Facade-smFrom time to time our senior attorney wears a golf shirt which reads, “RICKWOOD America’s Oldest Baseball Park”. Our firm has long supported the preservation of this remarkable baseball field in Birmingham. Each of our lawyers saw his first professional game at this locale. One of our attorneys serves on the board of directors and frequently contributes to its preservation.

Earlier this year, Josh Pahigian published the second edition of 101 Baseball Places to See Before You Strike Out. The number four place in the entire nation was Rickwood Field. For twenty years, the Friends of Rickwood have sponsored the Rickwood Classic celebrating the history of the Birmingham Black Barons and the Birmingham Barons, both of which called this old park home during its more than 100 years of existence. Rickwood is older than Fenway Park in Boston which is the second oldest ballpark in America.

Within the past several years, the Classic was voted in a poll of minor league baseball fans as the most desirable minor league baseball game to attend. It was also voted the promotion of the year in 2010 and was included in 101 Things All Sports Fans Must Experience Before They Die a column from ESPN (it’s number 79). The 2015 Classic will be held on Wednesday, May 27. Y’all come!

Visiting with Former Yankee Oscar Gamble

Oscar-Gamble-smWhile having breakfast recently with our friend and former New York Yankees star Oscar Gamble, he mentioned that his first World Series was in 1976 while playing for the Yankees. Interestingly, that was also the first World Series DeLeal Wininger and his dad David Wininger attended. However, the lawyers attended as paying customers not starting for the Yankees. Our favorite team had experienced a long drought while absolutely dominating the game of baseball for the first 60 years of the century.

Oscar was born in Alabama at the end of 1949 and played 17 years of Major League Baseball. His greatest success was with the Yankees and the Chicago White Sox. When he broke into the big leagues, he weighed 165lbs but yet one year, hit 31 home runs. While with the Yankees he wore a tremendously large afro (perhaps the largest in Major League history) and we still kid him about that fact because he is now as “bald as a gourd”. In addition to the pennant-winning year of 1976, he helped the Yankees to another division title in 1980 and another World Series appearance in 1981.

Over the years he has been a good friend to baseball both in Birmingham and his present home area of Montgomery, AL. He has honored us with his appearance at many of our American Baseball Foundation banquets and we always enjoy visiting with him during Spring Training in Tampa.

If You Drive an Older Jeep Cherokee Beware of Gas Tank Vulnerability

Recently, a Georgia jury awarded $150 million to the family of a four-year-old boy killed when a Jeep Cherokee caught fire after a crash. This was in Decatur County near Atlanta and they found that Chrysler acted with reckless disregard in selling the 1999 Jeep with a gas tank mounted behind the rear axle, thus making the vehicle more prone to fire on impact.

The child was riding with his aunt when the vehicle was hit from behind by a pick-up truck in March 2012. The tank thereafter leaked and the victim’s Jeep was engulfed in flames, killing the boy.

The jurors held that Chrysler was 99% at fault in the crash and the pick-up truck driver was 1% at fault. Chrysler had recalled over 1.5 million of these vehicles in June of 2013 under pressure from regulatory agencies of the government. The rear-mounted tanks have little structure to protect them if struck from behind. They are highly susceptible to punctures and fires. This firm has been involved in a case in that same area where the front windshield of the Chrysler vehicle was compressed downward, thus decapitating the driver.

If you or any of your friends or loved ones have been injured in such a tragedy, please call an attorney as soon as possible to make sure your rights will be protected.

ASP Closing Shows Lack of Leadership and Compassion

It is no secret that Alabama consistently lags behind other states when it comes to assisting its citizens who are in need. Perhaps the best example of this attitude has recently arisen when it was disclosed that Alabama Psychiatric Services (APS), one of the oldest and largest mental health providers in the state will close its doors on February 13, 2015, leaving tens of thousands of patients without access to mental health care. Alabama, even before  the APS announcement, ranked 49th of 50 in the nation in access to care in a report by Mental Health America.

Remember that Alabama has already slashed its mental health budget by 35% and has announced that state-run psychiatric hospitals will be closed. APS was one of the few mental health providers that accepted Blue Cross/Blue Shield, but that insurer reportedly shifted several members to plans with higher co-pays and deductibles, and reduced membership in a plan that had allowed APS to remain viable.

Now APS announces its closing, giving its patients and employees only 9 days notice. One can only imagine the difficulty the patients will have finding new providers promptly, and at an affordable cost. And what damage will be caused to the mental and emotional health of patients by such a disruption in care?

Alabama’s political leaders’ priorities are not in order. The mantra that we should all pull ourselves up by our bootstraps cannot continue at every turn, in every instance. In Alabama, 25% of the population suffers from mental illness and we already have a shortage of psychiatrists according to the National Alliance for Mental Illness. Now these patients are running out of places to turn for care.

This crisis is just the latest in our state, caused by short-sighted leaders, preaching conservatism to a fault, causing those who are most needful of assistance and treatment to do without. I pray that those in need of mental health treatment quickly find professionals who can provide the necessary assistance. Sadly, it will undoubtedly take time for patients to locate new providers, and more time to establish trusting relationships which are so crucial in strengthening the fragile mental and emotional well being of all those affected.

What You Wear Can And Will Be Used Against You

People in the United States are embracing wearable technology: phones, bracelets, watches, shoes, even clothes. These items will gather all manner of data about you – data that if precedents continue, may be used against you in a court of law.

You’re used to some of this technology already. Your cell phone sits in your pocket or purse and gathers and stores millions upon millions of bits of data about you: Where you are, where you’ve been, what you buy, who you are talking to, who you’re texting, and what you’re saying. It also transfers much of this information to databases in the “cloud,” where it is stored by companies that want to get to know you better so they can advertise to you more effectively.

Now, companies and entrepreneurs are getting the technology even closer to you. Here are just a few of the wearable technologies you can get now or very soon:

Smart watches: The new Apple Watch joins a myriad of other wrist-worn devices (Samsung Gear 2, Pebble, Sony SmartWatch, etc.) and includes a heart rate sensor, accelerometer (it measures your speed and acceleration), and a GPS. It’s also reported to be able to track glucose levels for people with diabetes.

Smart rings: Slip them on your fingers and they will notify you about messages, allow you to pay for purchases and track your movements.

Smart glasses: Although originally envisioned as a “see the digital world superimposed on the real world” device, smart eyeglasses like Google Glass have found a more recent niche in the medical world. Once Google shakes the bugs loose, these will track your location, buying habits, friends, preferences, and a myriad of other items and display them all handily in your own personal heads-up display.

Smart clothing: Does your hoodie let you send texts? Well, if could. Smart Hoodies respond to gestures so you can send texts when grabbing your phone is just too taxing. Shoes that track your workouts and charge your other devices could be your next fashion statement. Some companies have even even developed clothes that will monitor your baby’s vital signs and alert you to a problem.

Just remember that when you embrace these gadgets, all of the data they collect about you could be fair game for attorneys looking to support or debunk your claims in court.

Photo by Becky Stern, used under license.
Photo by Becky Stern, used under license.

A recent article in Forbes described how attorneys for an injured personal trainer in Canada plan to use data from a Fitbit wristband as evidence in a trial. A Fitbit is a device you wear on your wrist that measures and records your activity levels. For instance, it can record how many steps you walk in a day, how many flights of stairs you climb, and more.

The tactic is not new and has been accepted by the courts. For years now, the legal community has been able to breach your privacy and get into your phone’s records or your social networks. And now, by using data-gathering gadgets you may, in fact, be unwittingly incriminating yourself. From one standpoint people will be more accountable – perhaps fraud will be harder to perpetuate. But let’s say you are the victim of a horrible accident, one where a drowsy truck driver wandered into your lane and forced your car off the road. You’re suing the trucking company. If your Apple Watch buzzed with an email notification seconds before the crash, then the lawyers defending that at-fault driver will build a case against you – that you were the distracted driver and that you share the blame in the accident.

So as the devices around you get smarter, you, too, should be on a steep learning curve and be thinking about how they expose you to legal risk. Take a lesson from current technology safeguards. There are cell phone apps to prevent texting while driving and Apple is trying to patent technology to prevent drivers from using their phones while their car is in motion. One could imagine there will be similar types of safeguards available for other wearable tech that will prevent you from being too distracted while you interact in the physical world. Another tactic you could try is to navigate the privacy settings of your new tech to try to ensure it is storing data only on your device so you can control it more easily. Or, you could simply refrain from using some of these things altogether.

Regardless, as adoption of this new technology increases in your everyday life it increases the abilities of those who want to peer into it and expose it, and that’s what should really scare you.