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Fireworks Should Be Fun, Not Dangerous

By Richard Console on June 25, 2015

Avoid an Independence Day disaster with these Firework Safety Month tips.

With Independence Day on the horizon, it won’t be long until fireworks light up the night sky across the nation. There may be few things more American than watching the rockets’ red (and blue, green, and gold) glare, but remember that even the smallest sparklers are still explosive – and dangerous – pyrotechnics.

It doesn’t take much to suffer accidental burns from carelessly setting off fireworks, or even watching them from the wrong vantage point. In honor of it being Fireworks Safety Month, here are some tips to make sure your family’s summer firework viewing doesn’t go down in flames.

Fireworks safety
Photo Credit: Pixabay.

Finding a Fourth of July Fireworks Display Near You

There are plenty of cities throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania that plan to celebrate Independence Day with a fireworks display. Within a few miles of our office, you’ll find events in:

Find firework displays near your location here.

Many of these events are free. With the shows starting as early as July 2nd, you can get your fill of Independence Day fireworks throughout the long weekend.

8 Tips for Fireworks Safety

1. Leave the fireworks displays to the professionals.

Professional fireworks display
Photo Credit: Pixabay.

This is the single most important thing you can do to prevent fireworks accidents. Explosives shouldn’t be a do-it-yourself project. The stakes are too high. In states like New Jersey and Pennsylvania, the safety hazard is only one part of the problem. Many – if not all – consumer fireworks are illegal.

New Jersey laws currently permit no consumer use of fireworks, the American Pyrotechnics Association reported. (New York, Delaware, and Massachusetts have similar laws.) New Jersey specifically prohibits consumer use of a long list of fireworks types, including firecrackers, torpedoes, and even sparklers.

Pennsylvania law allows consumers to use “ground and hand-held sparkling devices,” “novelties” and “toy caps,” according to the American Pyrotechnics Association, because they “are not considered Consumer Fireworks under Pennsylvania Law.” All other consumer fireworks are illegal in the state. If you live in or will be celebrating in Pennsylvania, make sure to check your local fireworks laws, too, since some municipalities have additional rules.

Pyrotechnicians – the professionals who set up and set off fireworks displays – know how to safely use explosives. They also have to get the right gear, licenses, permits, and insurance. While a sparkler might seem harmless, any mistake lighting it could leave you with third-degree burns or start a fire that could spread wildly.

(In fact, sparklers cause nearly one-third of all fireworks injuries, more than any other kind of fireworks, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.)

Your best bet is to leave orchestrating the display to the professionals, sit back, and just enjoy the show.

2. Watch from a safe distance.

Watching fireworksPhoto Credit: Corbis Images.

Just how close is too close to a public fireworks display? You want to make sure you’re at least 500 feet away from where the explosives are being fired, the American Pyrotechnic Association warned. Otherwise, you could be in danger.

The good news is that when it comes to fireworks, a close-up view isn’t necessarily a better view, anyway. What really matters is that you have an unobstructed view of the sky.

3. If you are handling fireworks, read the directions first.

firework
Photo Credit: Pixabay.

First of all, see tip #1.

If for any reason you are handling fireworks – legally, I hope – then it’s essential to read the directions first. Unlike building a shelving unit or setting up a new electronic device, you could do some pretty serious damage making even minor mistakes when it comes to handling fireworks.

Seriously, it’s frighteningly easy to lose an eye (which is why professional pyrotechnicians know to wear safety goggles) or sustain a burn serious enough that you need to be hospitalized. Read the directions to avoid blinding or burning yourself – or someone else.

4. Know where it’s safest to light fireworks.

Firework burning on the ground
Photo Credit: Pixabay.

There’s a reason firework displays are always outdoors. You don’t want a stray spark hitting the ceiling and igniting a building full of spectators. It’s also a bad idea to set off fireworks in wooded areas that could easily catch fire.

Never attempt to light fireworks in indoor or enclosed spaces, and don’t go to see a fireworks display at a questionable location, even if you’re just watching. You could still be in the danger zone, especially if you’re too close.

5. Don’t light more than one firework at a time.

Lighting sparklers
Photo Credit: Corbis Images.

Granted, a finale wouldn’t be all that grand if it was just a series of single fireworks. Again, though, professional pyrotechnicians painstakingly set up their displays with caution. If you’re standing in a backyard in Pennsylvania (where it’s legal) and trying to light sparklers three at a time, the outcome probably won’t be pretty. Do your face and hands a favor – if you must light legal consumer fireworks yourself, only light one at a time.

6. Always have plenty of water handy.

 Fireworks over the water
Photo Credit: Corbis Images.

Even professional pyrotechnicians take precautions. If a firecracker goes out of control, there needs to be enough water immediately available to contain the fire and minimize the damage and the danger to others. The same goes for legal consumer fireworks. Make sure you have a hose or bucket of water in easy reach if you need to put out an unexpected blaze.

7. Never let small children handle fireworks.

Children watching fireworks
Photo Credit: Corbis Images.

It’s no wonder many children love fireworks: the bright, sparkling colors and the booms and whistles of the explosions. Letting your young children set off even a small consumer firework, though, is about as good an idea as putting them behind the wheel of a real-life racecar. They can easily hurt themselves or others if they make even the slightest mistake.

If you wouldn’t let your children play with fire, don’t let them play with fireworks.

8. Keep fireworks as far away from your body as possible.

Fireworks Safety
Photo Credit: Pixabay.

It sounds obvious, but it’s apparently not. Some amateur firework starters believe that covering the lit firework with their bodies will “protect” it from the wind. In effect, they’re using themselves as human shields for inanimate objects – not the smartest move.

Fireworks safety is about knowing how to minimize risks and making good choices when it comes to viewing or handling pyrotechnics. Think you know your stuff? Take the quiz!

For more fireworks safety tips and laws by state, visit the American Pyrotechnics Association.

You Won’t Believe How Many People Disappear on Cruise Ships

By Richard Console on June 23, 2015

Taking a cruise this summer? Here’s everything you need to know about cruise ship disappearances.

A man vanished during his honeymoon, never to be seen again. Investigators found bloodstains in his cabin and more streaks of blood down the side of the ship.

When a woman traveling with relatives didn’t return to the cabin as planned, her travel companions assumed she was out enjoying herself. Only as the ship neared the final destination of the cruise did they realize she was missing. Back home, her apartment had been burglarized.

It took the mysterious discovery of their shoes left abandoned on the deck for relatives to realize that an elderly couple married 50 years was nowhere to be found.

A woman disappeared just two days into a week-long cruise, but the cruise line neglected to alert her family – instead, it donated her possessions.

A young crewmember was last seen having a distressing phone conversation. Then, suddenly, she was gone.

These are just a few of the more than 250 people Cruise Junkie says have vanished onboard cruise ships in the past two decades. Already, this year alone has seen another 12 incidents –putting 2015 on track to surpass the annual average of 19 to 20 “man overboard” events.

Cruise ship disappearances
Would it surprise you to learn that men are more likely to disappear on cruise ships than women, or that the average age of a missing cruise passenger is 44? Photo Credit: Pixabay.

Without a Trace?

It’s as tragic as it is unbelievable that many of these individuals who disappear or go overboard are not saved. Sometimes search and rescue missions bring back their remains, so their families can at least get some closure and give them a proper funeral or memorial service.

In too many cases, though, even extensive searches come up empty. Bodies are never found. There may be clues left behind – bloodstains, shoes and remnants of clothing, scraps of video surveillance footage that often raise more questions than they answer.

Every cruise passenger and crew member who has disappeared has a story, and every single one should be heard. Often, sharing the story is the only chance the family members of the missing have of ever getting answers. This is just one of the hundreds of stories of the missing. You can find more of their stories at International Cruise Victims.

A Deadly Honeymoon

George Smith IV was 26 when he married Jennifer Hagel in June 2005. The Greenwich, CT, man and his new bride took a two-week Mediterranean cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Brilliance of the Seas. On the evening of July 4th, as the ship sailed the waters between Greece and Turkey, the couple apparently got separated in the onboard casino. Jennifer “would later say she had no recollection of the events of that night,” The Greenwich Post reported.

Brilliance of the SeasGeorge Smith disappeared from the Brilliance of the Seas, above, a decade ago – but the cruise ship is still in service today. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Investigators know some of the facts surrounding the disappearance – enough, at least, to lead them to suspect foul play. Yet in the decade since George disappeared, his family has yet to see anyone face justice for the presumed murder.

They know that four men, Josh Askin, Rusty Kofman, Gregory Rozenberg, and Zachary Rozenberg, walked George to his cabin that night, The Greenwich Post reported.

They know that neighbors heard what sounded like an argument, after which they recalled seeing only three individuals leave the cabin. Those same neighbors remembered hearing the noises of cupboards closing, furniture moving, and finally – around 4:30 in the morning on July 5 – what they described in The Greenwich Post as a “large, horrific thud.”

The morning of July 5th, a teenage passenger taking photographs from her balcony captured a disturbing detail: “a huge bloody stain on the lifeboat canopy,” The Greenwich Post reported. More blood was found on the bedsheets in George’s cabin.

Then there’s the video footage. Not of the presumed murder, but of three of men who had walked George to his cabin that night “commenting about George’s death in a very callous way,” according to The Greenwich Post. On tape, the men joke about George’s assumed wealth. One comments about “George going ‘parachute riding’ off his balcony.” And one ends the tape with the words, “Told ya I was gangsta” – “almost as if he’s bragging about having done something to George,” the Smith family’s attorney characterized the statement.

Last year, CBS’s 48 Hours aired the story on television, and George’s family offered a $100,000 reward for information. The prevailing theory is that George died as a result of a robbery. More details about the disappearance of George Smith can be found in this Greenwich Magazine article.

Where Did They Go?

When a passenger or crew member vanishes, where do they go? Even the most massive ships are finite spaces. It should be easy to find a missing person if they’re still on the boat – or, if something unfortunate or even sinister happened, to find evidence. Yet too often, searches on the ship, and in the ocean, turn up nothing. No one is ever charged. Justice is never served.

Cruise ship disappearances
For loved ones of the missing, not knowing what happened means never getting closure. Photo Credit: Pixabay.

Sometimes foul play is suspected, but evidence is hard to come by. Other times, families receive unsatisfactory answers – reports of unlikely suicides or implausible “man overboard” accidents – or no answers at all. These cases can remain “under investigation” for years, and the families of the missing receive precious little information. There have been rumored cover-ups and conspiracies, unsubstantiated reports of strangers seeing victims in far-off places, and persons of interest who later inexplicably vanish themselves.

4 Crucial Cruise Safety Tips

 If you’re planning to take a cruise, knowing the risks is one of the best things you can do to protect yourself. You don’t have to be paranoid, but you do need to know the risks.

People on cruise ships go missing. They get robbed, and sometimes physically harmed in the process. They suffer physical and sexual assaults. For you, this cruise is a vacation – but for some predators out there, a cruise is little more than a new crop of unsuspecting people to victimize.

  • Don’t leave drinks unattended. Victims have been known to be drugged so the perpetrators could more easily commit the crimes. Protect yourself by watching your drinks to make sure no one tampers with them.
  • Use a buddy system. Avoid walking alone. Sure, you could make plans to meet up with your group later on, but that won’t keep you safe in the meantime. By the time you miss the meeting and your travel companions realize something is wrong, it could be too late.
  • Keep valuables in the safe, not on your person, unless you really need them. Don’t unnecessarily “flash money.” It’s thought that the wrong people having the perception that George Smith had money – whether or not there was, in fact, money to steal – led to his death.
  • Stay away from the edge. Many cruise ship disappearances are dismissed as accidents early on – even when there are details that could suggest foul play. Be aware that accidental “man overboard” situations can happen, even with protective railings and walls around the ship.

While the technology to alert operators of passengers falling overboard exists, cruise ships aren’t legally required to have these sensors and alarm systems, Travel Weekly reported. Instead, many ships just use video monitors – which makes it possible that a fall, jump, or push overboard will only be noticed after the victim is already reported missing (and possibly, too late to help them).

For more cruise ship safety tips, check out ABC News and NBC News.

You’re Not in Jersey Anymore

If something happened to you or a family member while on a cruise, what would you do? You might be surprised to learn that your legal options are more limited than you might think.

“When you step on board a cruise ship you are stepping onto foreign soil,” a former cruise ship crewmember who suffered a sexual assault onboard warned on Cruise Junkie. Would a United States entity step in to investigate a crime against you or your family, or would that investigation fall to the coast guard, the government of the nearest port city, or a foreign country under whose flag the cruise ship sails?

Too often, even the cruise ship industry professionals and local law enforcement agencies don’t know the answer when it comes to individual cases. It’s one of the reasons that families receive the runaround and investigations are delayed.

As if this question about who’s responsible for investigations isn’t enough of a problem, there’s also the question of which court system will handle the legal cases. Often, the fine print on your cruise tickets limits where and even if you can go to trial. Are your legal options limited to arbitration? Will you have to pursue the case in Florida, even if you live in New Jersey? Most cruise ship passengers honestly don’t know – and they’ll only find out if and when it’s too late.

If you’re planning a cruise, know the risks before you go. Be aware of what legal rights you agree to sign away and what the implications might be if something unthinkable happened, like a boating accident or the sudden disappearance of a travel companion. Most importantly, follow safety tips to protect yourself and your family. You may not be able to control dangerous individuals or conditions on the ship, but you can take steps to make yourself less likely to become a victim.

A Truly Frivolous Lawsuit

By Richard Console on June 18, 2015

Frivolous lawsuits aren’t exclusive to the U.S. – as evidenced by a Chinese lawsuit against an actress with an intense stare.

People like to talk about “sue-happy” America, but the United States certainly isn’t the only country where people can misuse the legal system. Want to hear about a truly frivolous lawsuit? Read on.

Can a Stare Literally Be Intense Enough to Cause Harm?

Earlier this week, the Associated Press reported on a recently filed Chinese lawsuit that will leave you shaking your head. A man from Shanghai is suing “one of China’s biggest and richest movie stars,” Zhao Wei, because she “stared at him too intensely through his TV set.” So intensely, in fact, that he suffered “spiritual damage” because of it.

You can’t make this stuff up.

frivolous lawsuit
If this claimant really felt he was suffering “spiritual damage” from the actress’s gaze, wouldn’t a simpler solution be to change the channel or turn off the TV? Photo Credit: Corbis Images.

Now, I know that there’s often more to a case than meets the eye. Facts get twisted. Subtle but important details go ignored. It’s the reason so many people believe there are far more frivolous lawsuits than there really are.

Find out why the infamous “hot coffee” case wasn’t as frivolous as you think (warning – post contains graphic images of third-degree burns).

In this case, though, there are no nuances that make the case more legitimate than it first seems. In fact, one higher-level employee for the China Supreme Court’s case filing chamber publicly pointed to the story as “an example of citizens abusing their right to file lawsuits,” the Associated Press reported. “It’s not necessary to waste our judicial resources on cases like these,” he stated.

One Change in Regulations, One Million Lawsuits

Until recently, a claim this frivolous would never have made it into the court system. In the past, China’s strict regulations allowed the legal system to easily reject and obstruct cases – not just those that seemed absurd, but those that were unpopular. It was difficult for members of the public to bring cases against the government, no matter how much merit they had.

This is a major problem. If the people of any nation can’t use their country’s legal system to hold the government accountable for negligence or wrongdoing, what other options do they have to create change? How can people who suffer legitimate damages – physical injuries or otherwise – get what they deserve?

China changed its regulations on May 1st. Now, cases go through a registration system that “requires courts to accept legitimate lawsuits when they are filed or clearly state the reasons for rejecting them,” the Associated Press reported. If the court does reject a claim, the claimant now has the right to appeal that decision. Since implementing this registration system, China has seen a 29 percent jump in lawsuits that pushed the total number of cases to upwards of 1,000,000, according to the Associated Press.

Striking a Balance

In any legal system, striking a fair balance is massively important.

Making it too easy and consequence-free to get civil claims into the court system can allow ridiculous cases to clog up the courts, wasting time and money (much of it taxpayers’).

If regulations are too strict or arbitrary, though, then the system can fail to offer any real hope of justice to people who have been wronged – especially by those in power.

Not every obstacle to pursuing a claim revolves around government regulations. In the United States, a big factor that prevents some lawsuits – both those that are frivolous and those that have merit – is the financial cost.

Contrary to popular belief, pursuing a civil claim isn’t cheap. In personal injury cases, for example, medical experts and other expert witnesses can add thousands of dollars of fees to a claim – but the reports and testimony they provide are an important part of the evidence that makes a case successful.

The financial costs can help deter people from pursuing claims that have no merit. While personal injury firms usually front the costs for the case, no respected attorney wants to invest time and resources in a case that has little chance of succeeding or that would cost more to pursue than it’s actually worth. Even so, the system isn’t perfect.

One of the biggest complaints I hear is from people who have sustained harm that’s legitimate – something much more justifiable than “spiritual damage” – but just doesn’t cost enough. Their injuries cost them a fair amount of money and caused some pretty serious changes to their lives, but it would cost more money to pursue a lawsuit than they could realistically expect to get back. I see this particularly in the cases of victims of relatively minor medical or dental malpractice, and it’s frustrating that these victims have such limited options.

A Lawyer’s Take on Frivolous Cases

A lot of people are fed up with frivolous lawsuits – and as an attorney, I get it. In fact, I’m frustrated with these cases, too. Frivolous lawsuits really do hurt the people with serious claims. They poison potential jurors against even the most deserving claimants. They delay the resolution of cases that really matter, making true victims suffer longer without compensation as they wait to finally have their day in court.

There’s something at once laughable and exasperating about cases as outrageous as this one – but at the end of the day, what they do to the legal system isn’t so funny.

How Revictimizing Victims Became a New Industry

By Richard Console on June 16, 2015

This Man Is the Reason Insurance Companies Can Take Money From You (Again!)

My job is to protect accident victims from the overreaching insurance companies who try to wriggle out of paying victims what they deserve. This guy has the opposite claim to fame: he “protects” insurer’s profits at the expense of injured victims.

After all, in his own words, “Why isn’t this money going back to who it belongs to?”

George Rawlings is, as Bloomberg dubbed him, “the lawyer who invented a way to take cash from accident victims.” I’m not talking about a doctor or attorney who provided medical or legal services to injured individuals, and who deserves a paycheck for that work. Rawlings pioneered the industry of helping health insurers take a cut out of accident victims’ legal settlements. The enterprise targets injured individuals to pad the pockets of what’s already a multi-billion dollar industry.

Insurance claim form
If you have to reimburse your health insurer for covering your medical bills, how did you benefit from purchasing insurance in the first place? Photo Credit: Corbis Images.

How it’s Supposed to Work  

You pay insurance premiums so that if something happens – a covered event, be that a car crash covered by your auto insurance or an injury covered by your medical insurance – the costs become your insurer’s responsibility.

Insurance is a gamble, really. You agree to pay a set amount of money now for the promise that you won’t have to face a massive financial fallout later on, if that event ever happens. The insurance company takes your money with the understanding that they owe you nothing unless a covered event occurs – but if it does occur, the company must provide the economic protection it promised.

Here’s the thing. If you go your entire life without being in any kind of car accident, you don’t get back the money you paid all those years for auto insurance. Same thing for health insurance – if you never go to the doctor or hospital all year, you generally don’t get a refund. You paid for the promise of coverage, not for the services you actually received.

In theory, the insurance industry should be on the same terms. If an insurer has to pay out on a claim, the company knew the risk. It simply lost the gamble.

How Insurance Actually Works

Many of these insurers are changing the rules of the game, thanks in large part this growing industry. If these health insurers have to actually pay for your medical bills after an accident – which is, after all, their sole function and the reason you pay them thousands of dollars a year in the first place – then they want their money back out of your settlement. This is called healthcare subrogation, and yes, it’s legal.

If a clause in the contract you agreed to when you purchased insurance allows an insurer to do this, it doesn’t matter how much you need the money or how badly you’ve been hurt. Even in cases like paralysis, where there’s nowhere near enough insurance coverage to offset the costs of treating permanent injuries, the insurer can come in and take from the already insufficient funds, shrinking a settlement even smaller.

It was Rawlings who “invented a way to identify” personal injury claims and track down claimants, he told Bloomberg. He reported getting 20 percent of whatever he collects on behalf of major health insurance companies – enough money that his once small company swelled to 1,100 workers. While it’s not uncommon for auto insurers to all but stalk claimants, the lengths that the subrogation services firm’s employees go to is startling. “Motivated by cash bonuses tied to how much they recover, they dig through court filings, scour newspaper articles and search Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for clues about how people were injured,” Bloomberg reported.

Does it seem unfair that you can never get your premiums refunded, but your insurer can take money from you? It does to us. And it’s getting worse.

The View from the Front Lines

“When I started out, companies didn’t come after this money or they at least would consider the human element,” Bloomberg reported one attorney as saying. But times have changed. Today, “it is just all about the money.”

As personal injury lawyers, my colleagues and I have seen this firsthand. After all, we’re on the proverbial front lines of the fight with insurers, and we’ve seen plenty of foul play. Perhaps the worst thing about it is that there’s little that policyholders can do to protect themselves or prevent this from happening to them. Insurers increasingly add subrogation into the fine print of their contracts.

How Lawyers Handle Healthcare Subrogation

If it’s not possible in many cases to avoid health-care subrogation, what can you do? Your best bet is to have an attorney on your side after an accident. We’re prepared for the possibility of subrogation from the start, and we always make sure you get the largest settlement you can – especially if we know that you’ll be stuck paying some of your money back to a health insurer.

More importantly, personal injury lawyers typically negotiate with the health insurer to bring costs down. Bloomberg cited the example of a case where the attorney’s negotiations shaved off more than half of the $33,000 the insurer insisted it was owed. The victim had to pay just $15,000 and got to keep the other $18,000 where it rightfully belonged – in his pocket. At our office, we’ve repeatedly saved individual clients thousands or tens of thousands of dollars – and sometimes more – just by negotiating how much they owe.

An attorney can minimize the damage, but there’s still nothing fair about one set of rules applying to the insurance industry and another applying to the rest of us.

Groundbreaking New Implants Help Paralyzed Man Control Robot Arm

By Richard Console on June 11, 2015

Could neural implants be the future of movement for paralyzed patients?

The sip of beer that Erik Sorto, 34, took recently was nothing short of a milestone. It’s not only because he had 13 years of thirst to make up for that it became such a big deal. It’s because Sorto, who was left paralyzed from the neck down after being shot, was finally able to lift the bottle to his own lips.

Neural implants made it possible, CBS News reported, and this groundbreaking technology could forever alter quality of life for paralyzed patients around the globe.

prosthetics
Other prosthetics may help amputees, but only prosthetics they can control with their minds can help paralyzed patients accomplish goals independently. Photo Credit: Corbis Images.

Sorto’s Story

Sorto paid a steep price for the mistakes of his youth. He was just 21 years old when a bullet struck him in the back in during a gang-related shooting, damaging his spinal cord. The injury changed his life forever.

Today, Sorto is “happy to share his story about how being involved with a gang in his youth got him ambushed, shot and paralyzed” with fellow Los Angeles residents, NBC News reported. Yet more than a decade later, he still has to live with the daily consequences of the injury. He can’t move his arms or legs. He needs someone to assist him with the kind of tasks that the uninjured take for granted, like sipping a drink or brushing his teeth.

Two years ago, Sorto underwent an experimental surgery to install two small sensors into the posterior parietal cortex region of his brain – the part, according to BBC News, that “comes up with the initial intention” instead of controlling individual motor functions.

In a matter of days, Sorto was able to shake hands using a mind-controlled robotic arm, NBC News reported. Last month, the journal Science published researchers’ account of Sorto using these neural implants to realize a new achievement: taking that sip of beer all by himself, again with the use of a robotic arm.

It wasn’t perfect. On the first attempt, Sorto accidentally dumped out the beer. “I lost concentration because I was so excited,” NBC News reported him saying. But practice makes perfect. Counterintuitive as it may sound, Sorto could better control the robotic arm if he didn’t overthink it – if he focused on the goal, the overall motion, instead of the processes that go into making it.

Soon Sorto could not only shake hands and take a drink with the mind-controlled prosthetic, but even play rock, paper, scissors. His next goal: to brush his teeth on his own.

How Neural Implants Work

When you reach for a drink, you probably don’t think about every individual movement you have to make or every single joint and muscle in your body that must cooperate. It’s effortless.

For Sorto and others who have suffered paralysis, though, it’s anything but easy. Not only can these patients not move their own limbs, but in the past, working with prosthetic devices – even mind-controlled ones – required them to break down even the most seemingly simple tasks into countless individual movements.

The results were somewhat successful – for example, a paralyzed woman was able to feed herself a chocolate bar using mind-controlled prosthetics in 2012, NBC News reported. However, these movements have yet to mimic natural motion. Scientists have spent years struggling to make motor function smoother for patients using mind-controlled prosthetics. Sorto is the first person in the world to have neural implants that work this way installed in the intention-generating region of the brain. These implants allow his movements of the robotic arm to be faster, smoother, and more natural.

An Inspiring Breakthrough for Paralyzed Patients Everywhere

So far, Sorto remains one of just three patients in this clinical trial, and the robotic arm remains in a lab. He will spend one more year working with researchers to test the device.

The next step – one which could allow Sorto and paralyzed patients everywhere a type of independence they thought they had lost forever – is for the researchers to seek approval for the medical device from the Food and Drug Administration, NBC News reported.

It could be a decade or longer before the technology Sorto is testing out finally finds its way into mainstream clinical use. For those patients who thought they would never again get to do things like shake someone’s hand or feed themselves, though, even knowing that the technology is on the horizon can offer a glimmer of hope.

Local Police to Hold Virtual Ride-Along This Saturday

By Richard Console on June 10, 2015

What are you doing Saturday? How about getting a glimpse of a night in the life of our local police officers?

While there are regions throughout the country where tensions between law enforcement and communities continue to run high, our local officers are striving for transparency, trust, and a more unified community than ever.

The Evesham Police Department is hosting a virtual ride-along event this Saturday night, allowing civilians across the community – and, for that matter, the Internet – a rare glimpse into real-life police work.

Evesham Police DepartmentYou may not be physically in the passenger seat of a police car during this ride-along, but social media offers the next best thing, from the comfort of your own home. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Virtual Ride-Along Event Details

Want to be part of the virtual ride-along? Here’s everything you need to know about the event:

What: A virtual ride-along with the Evesham Police Department via social media

When: This Saturday, June 13, from 6 p.m. until midnight

Where: On Twitter (follow @EveshamPD), Facebook (visit the ETPD official Facebook page), and the Evesham Township website.

Why: To help community members understand what real-life police officers encounter on a daily basis and promote transparency.

What to Expect from a Virtual Ride-Along

For those of us who have never taken part in a virtual ride-along, what should we expect?

“The ETPD virtual ride-along will follow calls during the evening shift, tweeting information about the calls for service, along with pictures and videos of the officers at work,” the ETPD stated on the department website. Those of us tuning in “will be able to follow the officers in real time as if [we] were in the front seat of the patrol car.”

This is the department’s second time hosting a virtual ride-along, according to Philly Voice.

What’s Behind the Ride-Along?

A series of high-profile instances of alleged police brutality has captured headlines across the country in recent months. With law enforcement branches across the nation under scrutiny, why would any police department willingly invite social media followers throughout the community and across the nation (or even the world) to track what they do and how they work?

Especially more than once?

It may sound counterintuitive, but the recent tensions are precisely why the department is making virtual ride-alongs a priority.

“Through the use of the virtual ride along program, the Evesham Police Department hopes to enhance public transparency and to continue to build partnerships with our community,” the department announced.

And since most of us have little insight into what a day in the life of an officer is like in the real world – that is, outside of sensational movie and television plots – the virtual ride-along will answer the question of what officers – not just any officers, but those right here in our community – do every day.

Setting the ETPD Apart

The Evesham Police Department isn’t your average law enforcement chapter. The ETPD makes a consistent effort to create community partnerships that puts many law enforcement departments to shame. On Facebook alone, the department has 18,000 likes, and it’s approaching 2,000 Twitter followers. Not all of the outreach is virtual, either. The Evesham Police Department promotes a free bicycle registration program to better manage bike theft cases and holds regular events like Community Day and Coffee with a Cop.

If more law enforcement departments across the country made transparency and community a priority the way the Evesham Police Department does, maybe there would be no controversies over police brutality, no unnecessary force used, no needless deaths.

Thanks for working toward a better community partnership, ETPD! We’re looking forward to the virtual ride-along – and we hope a lot of others in Evesham Township are, too.

Cancer Survivors Day: Who Are You Celebrating?

By Richard Console on June 7, 2015

Find out why today is a special day for cancer patients and survivors worldwide.

Today is a day to celebrate hard-won battles against some of the most devastating illnesses known to modern medical practitioners. It’s a day to support the millions of patients still struggling with the disease or with the aftermath of the illness. It’s National Cancer Survivors Day, the 28th annual celebration of all those who have beaten the odds to experience life after cancer.

National Cancer Survivors Day 2015
Who are you celebrating today? Download your free sign and share your own story on social media.

Celebrating Cancer Survivors across the Nation – and the World

What exactly is National Cancer Survivors Day? According to the official website of the National Cancer Survivors Day observance, it’s:

  • A celebration for those who have survived
  • Inspiration for those recently diagnosed
  • A gathering of support for families
  • An outreach to the community

Whether you’re a patient yourself, a friend or family member of one, or a medical professional, you can bring hope to others and learn more about the fight against cancer today. Look for in-person events in your community, or join the virtual celebrations on Facebook and Twitter (tweet @SurvivorsDay) with the hashtags #NCSD2015and #CelebrateLife.

Get Involved in Your Community

If you know and love someone who has struggled with cancer, then you likely know how much support means to all cancer victims and their families across the globe. Here are just a few of the National Cancer Survivors Day events going on today in the New Jersey and Pennsylvania region:

Already have plans for the day? No problem! Some organizations are even extending the celebration of life throughout the week or even the month with events like Penn Medicine’s Pack a Lunch Picnic Day on Wednesday, June 10.

Life after Cancer

We’ve talked, in the past, about the complications that cancer survivors face. From the very real risk of recurrence to the phenomenon of survivor’s guilt, there are a lot of physical and emotional stresses that former cancer patients have to cope with in the aftermath of their illness. That’s precisely why it’s so important to celebrate survivorship and to support patients at every stage of their cancer battles.

For some survivors, life after cancer is complicated. It’s not as simple as saying, “just be happy.” Patients who suffer from serious side effects of their cancer or medical treatments and those who continue to experience fear, depression, and anxiety from the trauma of their disease need real support. There’s no better time for all of us to do our part.

Lane Courtesy: Solving the Traffic Jam Mystery

By Richard Console on June 4, 2015

This one bad driving habit is behind the most aggravating traffic jams clogging up your commute.

We’ve all been there – trapped in an ocean of glaring red brake lights, waiting for what seems like an eternity for the bumper-to-bumper traffic to clear. Yet when it does, there’s no obvious reason for traffic to have slowed to a crawl in the first place. No debris from an accident, no construction or lane closures – just a lot of frustrated drivers.

Traffic jam
At best, this traffic is a minor inconvenience that delays you for a few minutes. At worst, it’s a risk that makes your chances of being in a crash skyrocket. Photo Credit: Corbis Images.

The fix for these pointless traffic jams is simple and free: a single change in driving habits. June is Lane Courtesy Month, time to drive home (no pun intended) an easy but often overlooked rule: don’t hog the left lane.

Left Lane Bandits Aren’t Just Annoying – They’re Dangerous

There’s a name for those motorists who have an inexplicable need to cruise along in the passing lane: left lane bandits.

Left Lane Bandit
Their ability to slow down every driver in their wake is practically a superpower – a very annoying one. Photo Credit: Corbis Images.

The real harm of slower traffic taking over the passing lane goes far beyond frustrating everyone else on the road. The roadway is safest when traffic is flowing unobstructed. Research has proven that slowing down (unexpectedly) and changing lanes (unsafely) cause more accidents than speeding, Vox reported. On some level, it doesn’t matter whether drivers weave in and out of lanes to pass the slow-going left lane hogs, begin tailgating these slowpokes, or simply decelerate to accommodate the new, lower speed of traffic. The traffic flow has changed, and the danger has increased for everyone.

The 3 Best Benefits of Lane Courtesy

  1. Faster travel times

Whether you’re driving to something you have to do or something you want to do, sitting in traffic is a waste of your time. You might be surprised just how much time: 111 hours a year for the average American, according to USA Today. I’m sure you could find something better to do with an extra 111 hours in your year.

When everyone is driving courteously and motorists are using the left lane only for passing and turning left, there aren’t unnecessary bottlenecks holding up your trip. You can get where you’re going faster, and guess what? You might even enjoy the ride.

  1. Better gas mileage

Gas mileage
If you happen to be low on fuel when you get caught in congestion, you’re probably anxiously looking at the gas gauge, not the road. Photo Credit: Corbis Images.

Your car might not move very far in stop-and-go traffic, but you’re engine’s still running, and that means wasted fuel. Experts estimate that congested roadways in the United States waste as much as 1,900,000,000 gallons of gas per year, according to Business Insider.

Between the wasted gasoline and the wasted time, traffic jams cost American’s $124,000,000,000 – around $1,700 per household – every year, USA Today reported.

  1. Safer travels

Let’s face it: when drivers get stuck in congestion, they get antsy. Some tailgate slower drivers. Others shift lanes repeatedly, opening themselves up to a higher accident risk as they attempt to get around the slow driver blocking the left lane.

Even those motorists who quietly resign themselves to sitting in traffic become less attentive drivers. They fiddle with the radio more, pick up the phone, or take their eyes off the road to look around them – after all, they figure, they’re not going anywhere. When traffic starts moving again, this distraction can cause further delays or increase the risk of crashes.

Stand Up for Lane Courtesy

Road rageDon’t just get angry – take action to promote lane courtesy in your community. Photo Credit: Corbis Images.

If just the thought of left lane hogs gives you road rage – even when you’re not in the car – then today is the day to do something about it. The National Motorist Association, the organization which designated June as National Lane Courtesy Month, lists ways drivers can take action, from submitting letters to the editors of local newspapers to urging legislators and police officers to support and enforce lane courtesy laws.

On the other hand, if it dawned on you as you read this that you are one of the left lane bandits, even unintentionally, it’s never too late to change! Stop making excuses for being in the left lane when you shouldn’t and start asking yourself if you’re in the correct lane for your speed and destination. It might be hard to change old driving behaviors at first, but stick with it. You could break this bad habit by the end of the month!

Know Your Stroke Risk – and Why You Need to Act F.A.S.T.

By Richard Console on May 27, 2015

Strokes are among the leading causes of death in the United States, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) reported, yet too few people know the serious symptoms to watch out for, the factors that put them at risk, and the danger they can still face even after a trip to the emergency room.

May is National Stroke Awareness Month. What better time to learn more about the serious medical condition that, the CDC said, kills one American every four seconds?

Did you know, for example, that strokes can happen at any age (even childhood)? Or that your race, ethnicity, and gender can make a huge difference in your personal risk?

Stroke diagramDo you know what is actually means to have a stroke? This diagram explains it simply. Photo Credit: Flickr.

The more you know about strokes, the better you can protect yourself, work toward prevention, and learn what steps to take if you or someone around you suffers a stroke.

Recognizing Stroke Symptoms

First things first: let’s talk about the definition of a stroke. A stroke is an interruption of or reduction to the blood supply that travels to the brain, Mayo Clinic explained. Without continuous blood flow, the brain tissue doesn’t get enough oxygen, which can cause cells to begin dying. Brain damage can begin in a matter of minutes, and can sometimes be irreversible. That’s why it’s essential to quickly notice the symptoms of a stroke and to get help right away.

The American Stroke Association stresses a campaign called F.A.S.T. to help people detect the symptoms of a stroke in themselves or others.

F: Face drooping, which may cause numbness or an uneven smile
A: Arm weakness, which can involve numbness or one arm the drifts downward when raised
S: Speech difficulty, like slurring or the inability to correctly repeat a simple sentence
T: Time to call 9-1-1, even if these symptoms seem to go away

Face drooping, arm weakness, and speech difficulties may be among the most recognizable stroke symptoms, but they’re not the only ones. Some stroke victims experience changes in vision, severe headaches, confusion, and difficulty walking.

Understanding Stroke Complications

Though strokes kill 130,000 Americans a year, they also leave survivors facing life-altering disabilities. Strokes cause brain damage, which can manifest in devastating physical and psychological consequences. Exactly how a stroke will affect a victim depends on a lot of factors, including which side of the brain suffered the stroke.

Stroke complications

Are You at Risk for a Stroke?

  • Certain lifestyle choices, medical conditions, and demographic factors can greatly increase your risk of suffering a stroke.• Smoking cigarettes increases your stroke risk substantially.
  • People with high blood pressure or high cholesterol are at a far greater risk than those without these medical conditions.
  • While the majority of stroke victims are older, being young doesn’t rule out the possibility of suffering a stroke. About one-third of all stroke hospitalizations involve patients under age 65, the CDC reported.
  • Though strokes affect patients of all races and ethnicities, the CDC reported that some races and ethnicities have higher stroke rates than others. Specifically, American Indians, Alaska Natives, and blacks are in the high-risk group. The “risk of having a first stroke is nearly twice as high for blacks than for whites,” while “Hispanics’ risk for stroke falls between that of whites and blacks,” the CDC said.

The Catastrophic Combination of Strokes and Medical Malpractice

The fact that so many people die from strokes is nothing short of tragic. The disability and loss of quality of life that survivors often experience, too, is awful. Yet one of the saddest things about strokes is that many of them could have been prevented, or at least their symptoms could have been mitigated if only the right medical provider had handled the medical emergency better.

I can’t even count the number of times I’ve heard from patients who went to the emergency room with worrying symptoms but were sent home from the ER, only to later suffer a debilitating stroke. If they had received the right care early on, these patients may have suffered far less substantial brain damage. Those who died might have pulled through, and those who survived would be in far better health.

Research shows that patients who receive the right medical treatment for their stroke within three hours of developing their first symptom experience fewer disabilities – even three months later, when the patient has already begun rehabilitation therapy, the CDC reported. If you ever fear that you or a loved one is having a stroke and the staff at the hospital doesn’t take you seriously, insist on getting a second opinion. If a stroke is the cause of your symptoms, you can’t afford even an hour’s delay in getting treatment. Every minute counts.

Console & Hollawell Wins Courier-Post Award

By Richard Console on May 21, 2015

Here at Console & Hollawell, we’ve been fortunate enough over the years to receive recognition from a number of publications and organizations, nationally and regionally. This year, our firm was honored to receive the “One of the Best Attorneys” award from local newspaper The Courier-Post – and we’d like to thank the loyal clients and community members who made it possible.

Courier Post 2015 Best of South Jersey award logo

For the past 28 years, the Courier-Post has published its Best of South Jersey and One of the Best of South Jersey awards annually to honor local businesses and professionals who, in readers’ opinions, go above and beyond. This is the first time our firm has placed among the One of the Best of South Jersey award recipients, and that means one thing – that our past and present clients and our friends throughout the community made the effort to vote for us.

It’s an honor to receive any professional award, but knowing that it came from local supporters is what makes this recognition so special and so humbling. Helping our clients is the reason our firm exists. It’s been our mission for the more than 20 years we’ve been in business, and it continues to be the goal that we strive every day to achieve. It’s good to know that our clients and community contacts think our firm deserves recognition – and I hope they know that Console & Hollawell is here to help them (again) at any time.

Thank you to all who took the time to vote for our firm for the Courier-Post Best of South Jersey awards!

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