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Charleston WV Personal Injury Law Blog

Employers are increasingly buying harassment insurance

We've come a long way since the "Mad Men" days when sexual harassment was rampant in many workplaces, and women (and men) had little if any recourse if they were being hit on or worse in the office.

Sexual harassment allegations today can bring down powerful executives. We saw that recently when Fox News chief Roger Ailes resigned (albeit without admitting wrongdoing and with a hefty $40 million exit deal) after a lawsuit by former anchor Gretchen Carlson brought out allegations from other women who had worked for him.

Do you know how to handle a car accident?

Imagine this scenario: You're driving down the road in a cautious manner. And then something happens. Another driver makes a mistake and you're suddenly involved in a car accident. Regardless of the details surrounding the accident, there are a few key steps you need to take.

First off, move to a safe area if possible. If you can't do this, such as because you're injured, it's best to stay put. You don't want to do anything that could cause greater damage.

Understanding bedsores in a nursing home environment

Many West Virginia families depend on nursing homes to provide care and nurturing for elderly loved ones. Learning to trust that the staff of these facilities will take proper care of a family member is not always easy. Media reports of nursing home neglect and abuse can exacerbate this already difficult process. One way that you can ease your mind about the nursing home you have chosen is to learn about a common sign of abuse or neglect: bedsores.

In most cases, bedsores are entirely preventable and if they do begin to occur, swift treatment can make all the difference. Bedsores occur in patients who have limited mobility. They happen because lying or sitting in the same position for prolonged periods puts pressure on certain areas of the body. These areas include the buttocks, hips, tailbone and lower back. They can also appear around the patient's ankles, feet and heels when left in a wheelchair for too long.

Does at-will employment affect a wrongful termination claim?

In many states, the most common form of employment is what is called "at-will" employment. This means that an employee can be terminated at the employer's will. The employer doesn't need to provide the employee with a reason for the termination, and he or she doesn't need to provide any type of advance warning or notification. Montana is the only state that doesn't recognize at-will employment.

Does that mean someone can be fired for any reason? No, it doesn't. There are many reasons why an employee's termination could be considered a "wrongful termination."

Truck accidents don’t typically end well

From the outside looking in, it's easy to believe that truck accidents and car wrecks are one and the same. However, as you learn more, you'll find that nothing could be further from the truth.

The primary difference is that truck accidents almost always cause more damage and injuries. The reason for this is that trucks are so much bigger than passenger vehicles. So, when the two collide, the person in the smaller car almost always ends up in a bad spot.

Brain injury-related depression may require costly treatments

A traumatic brain injury can arise from several kinds of traumatic events, such as a car accident or a serious fall. Most people expect the physical damage that comes with a brain injury, but few are prepared for the emotional, mental and psychological damage that may accompany such an injury. Depression, often accompanied by anxiety, is one of the most common, yet unexpected, consequences of brain injuries.

There are many reasons people become depressed after suffering a brain injury. Often, victims find it challenging to adjust to a new — and potentially limited — way of life following the injury. Other times, TBIs cause damage to the part of the brain that controls emotion. When injuries affect the brain's chemical balance, depression is a common occurrence.

Survey: High school students reported sexual harassment

When you send your teen to high school, you know that there will be some tough times ahead, but you hope your kid is happy and healthy. After all, high school should provide your child with many terrific memories. A recent study performed by a team from the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia found that some students -- mainly female -- have been the victim of sexual harassment.

The study was given to almost 69,000 students, from freshmen to seniors, and to 14,619 staff members and teachers. The survey was completed anonymously online.

Unsafe roadways: When car accident liability is hard to identify

Sometimes the cause of a car accident is relatively easy to determine. Another driver may have caused the crash because of alcohol consumption or negligent driving. Other times, car accidents seem to happen out of nowhere, making it difficult to determine liability. These kinds of accidents can occur on all types of West Virginia roadways and may involve a single vehicle or multiple vehicles. If no obvious explanation exists, it just might be the road itself that caused the accident.

Any number of unforeseen and unexpected road conditions can cause drivers to crash. Most state and local level governments do all they can to correct problems on urban and rural roads as well as highways, but sometimes hazardous conditions may be overlooked. Below you will find some examples of poor road conditions that can lead to a car accident.

Frequent falls could be a sign of nursing home neglect

Overall, the United States is seeing an increase in the aging population, including in West Virginia. Some of these elders live at home or with family members, but a significant number reside in nursing homes or assisted living facilities. At this time, more than 1.4 million citizens aged 65 or older live in nursing homes. The government expects that figure to reach approximately 3 million by 2030.

Senior citizens are among the most vulnerable members of the nation's population. While people do live longer than ever, often they become weak or frail and therefore vulnerable to falling. It is estimated that about 1,800 nursing home residents die each year due to fall-related injuries. Those who survive often experience permanent disability or a reduced quality of life from injuries sustained in a fall.

Before You Yell at the Board of Education Over the School Calendar...

I'll fill you in on a secret - most of the blog posts on my page are for marketing purposes (shocking, I know). Because of my limited time I don't even always write them. Someone else picks areas of my practice and posts articles that a person needing help with that issue may find interesting.

Unlike those, this post has nothing to do with my law practice. I am going to write about a topic that I will never work on as a lawyer and never make any money from. Still, there are some legal angles to it and as a parent it is important to me and my friends. If the information I pass along helps us and our kids then that's good enough for me. This issue is very local in nature but if you have a child attending school anywhere in WV then much of what I'm writing applies to you as well.

Last night I attended a Kanawha County School Board meeting to express concern over the early start date.  I'm not presumptuous enough to think I was there to speak for everyone.  I did express what looks like the most common concern I've seen and heard. 

The school calendar was not even on last night's agenda, which is actually one reason why I went.  Controversial agenda items bring out lots of speakers and it's easy to get drowned out in the noise of so many voices. There were a few other people who signed up to talk about the calendar but, compared to when this will be an agenda item in November, there weren't many of us there.  That helps in a way because the Board members aren't getting bombarded from all directions.

I want to say a few things that I think are helpful in these situations.  First, the people on the Board are human beings.  They make mistakes like the rest of us. That doesn't mean we should go in and tell them how terrible they are.  As parents like me have kids grow up I may think I'm the first to deal with a particular issue.  That's rarely true.

The school calendar has been debated many times before. I don't like the current start date but there are legitimate reasons for it.  One, like I've written before, is that WV counties have a 180 day mandate from the State.  The Boards have to fit those 180 instructional days in somewhere.   They cannot make it work "Labor Day to Memorial Day" like a lot of people seem to propose since that's how it was "back in our day."

There is another seemingly forgotten reason in Kanawha County for the earlier start date.  Some parents of older students used to complain that end of semester exams took place right after Christmas break.  That wasn't much of a holiday for those older kids since they had to spend it studying for these important tests.  By moving the start date up that meant end of semester exams occurred before Christmas, making it a true break for the kids. 

In other words, some parents historically asked for a change to the calendar and the Board accomodated them.  In return, we have to start earlier.  The Board's decisions don't always make sense to me but they also aren't always "wrong" just because we disagree with them.  

Another issue that has come up in the past is that a change to the school calendar can impact teacher pay.  As I understand it, one of the proposed calendars from a few years ago would have cost the teachers what amounted to an entire paycheck.  The teachers weren't unreasonably mad about losing unearned money, the technical change to the calendar would have resulted in them not getting paid for actual work done.  If I'm right about that then that's obviously a legitimate concern for the teachers and the Board. 

That brings us to what you can do if you are interested in the calendar issue.  Some people may like it the way it is.  Some may want it changed.  If you plan to address the Board either in writing or in person then it's, in some ways, like going to court.  Let me give you some free advice, remembering that you get what you pay for. 

When you go to court you can't just stand up and yell that the other person is an idiot and that you should win.  At least you shouldn't do that.  You have to prove why you are correct.  Sometimes you have to offer a solution.  The same is true with a County Board of Education.

I've seen some parents just stand up and basically say "This is ridiculous! You all need to do something!"  People in the audience will then applaud because, they agree, something needs to be done.  The problem is the Board is not offered a solution, just a demand for change. They are sitting there thinking to themselves, "But if I change the calendar for you then I'm going to make some other parents mad when exams fall after Christmas." 

If you've never been to a Board meeting here is a link to a story on the one I attended last night.  In the beginning you'll see a lady at the podium (she also spoke against the early start date and did a nice job).  If you're going to talk you have to stand at that podium in front of the Board and the crowd.  You have a certain period of time in which to speak...last night 5 minutes, other nights it may be different.  I am interviewed briefly.  I said much more than that sound bite while addressing the Board, during which I never argued that my opinion is the best.  I'm just one parent offering some ideas while also trying to see things from the Board's point of view.

Board members really don't mind being told why they are wrong if you can do it respectfully and with facts.  They want to get it right.  If you are hostile and tell them they don't care about the kids then they are going to tune you out.  They do care.  If they didn't they wouldn't be on a School Board. 

If you laugh at that then please go to several Board meetings in a row when there is nothing on the agenda that particularly interests you.  Watch what the Board members have to do on a regular basis.  It's not what I'd call fun and it's certainly not glamorous. 

They get criticized by someone for any decision of public interest.  They are going to respond much better if you say, "I know you have a tough job and did what you thought was best a few years ago.  This is why I now think there is a better way."  That is not kissing their ass, that is just being a decent human being to someone with a difficult job.  Just because they were elected to do it doesn't mean they deserve an extra helping of abuse. 

If you advocate a change to the calendar be prepared to defend your position.  That goes beyond just saying you don't like it the way it is.  What will you say if a Board member asks, "Mr. Smith you told us you have a kindergartner.  If we adopt your plan what does the Board say to parents of high schoolers who don't want to study over Christmas and essentially lose that holiday for themselves?  That's not just a high schooler losing vacation, they probably won't retain all their information quite as well compared to taking the tests right when classes end. Those students are fighting to get into college.  What do we tell them?"

If you say we can keep everything the way it is and just move back the end date what will you say if asked, "Mrs. Smith you said let's start in September, keep our holidays and just finish later.  With our 180 day requirement that means we'd finish in the middle of June.  State law now also requires us to make up snow days.  That means students could be in school even longer, up to June 30 is permisible by law.  Do you want us to keep schools open until the end of June?  What about parents who count on the end date to schedule family vacations?  They can't schedule anything with certainty until July under your plan.  At least we know the start date in August is certain.  Under your plan we could be in school until basically July, but not know until we get that far.  What do we tell those parents?"

For now a simple Kanawha County solution appears to be moving back our end date by one week, until the end of May (like in neighboring Putnam County),  taking back just two days from Thanksgiving vacation and three days from Christmas break.  Those two changes would give us two more weeks off in August.  Whether we can pull that off without moving exams past Christmas...I don't yet know.  I know some people in rural areas will also still want off the entire week for Thanksgiving for hunting season, etc. 

No plan is going to make everyone happy.  What looks good to me may not work for you.  Whatever your opinion you have to consider how it impacts other families.  For those who like things as they are you also need to think about, for example, some older kids who work full-time in the summer out of necessity.  Those extra two weeks can really help them pay for things they need.  All of these arguments have pros and cons.

There are few other things you can do before the November meeting on this issue.  Several petitions are apparently online asking for a calendar change.  Those can help but, again, have a solution.  Don't just demand "we want our summer back!" 

It's also easy to post online polls and they can help.  However, if all the survey asks is, "Do you want your summer back?!?" then the Board may not really care about the results.  What they'd rather see is, "Do you support this specific plan [insert plan] to get your summer back?"   

Ultimately, if you care, get involved.  Do it constructively but make sure the Board knows your opinion.  The meeting on the calendar issue is said to be November 17.  Verify that to be sure.  If you don't speak up then someone else will make the decision for you. God Bless and keep your kids safe this year,

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