Sep 20 2019

Injuries and Liability Concerns With Malfunctioning Vehicle Airbags

As another recent round of airbag recalls is making big news, this time through a manufacturer called Takata, it’s a good time to remind readers that while airbags are meant to function in a way that promotes your safety, this isn’t always the case. Airbags are present in several varieties within a given vehicle, and while they often save lies, they can also be the cause of injury themselves when they’re defective.

At the offices of William Rawlings & Associates LLC, not only do we provide comprehensive car accident attorney services, we’re also here to serve you if you believe a defective airbag has caused you injury or harm. Let’s go over some of the basics of airbag malfunctions, the common injuries that are sustained as a result, and whether you might have a liability case if this happens to you.

injuries liability malfunctioning vehicle airbags

Airbag Malfunction Concerns

While some consumers might think of airbags as soft, airy items that provide a nice little cushion after a collision, this simply isn’t the case. Rather, airbags deploy quickly and with great force when they’re called into action, providing a significant barrier that stops what can be very strong forward human motion after a vehicle accident.

While this force is often valuable for safety, it can also cause bodily harm. Especially in cases where an airbag is faulty or deploying based on a malfunction, those near them can be seriously injured in some cases.

Possible Airbag Malfunction Injuries

Due to the force exerted by a malfunctioning airbag, plus the related complete surprise that’s often brought on people in the vehicle, some of the following injuries are most common during these incidents:

  • Facial injuries: The face is the most common location to be impacted by a malfunctioning airbag deployment. Airbags can cause injury to the face, nose, mouth and eyes. In the worst cases, malfunctioning airbags have led to broken facial bones and even permanent blindness.
  • Neck or back injuries: Whether due to a direct impact or some kind of a rocking sensation, neck and back injuries – including concussions – can take place due to a faulty airbag. Neck injuries often progress into worsening pain issues for months or even years into the future.

Chest injuries: The airbag deploys fast to stop you from slamming into the steering wheel or dashboard, but a faulty product may do so incorrectly or when it isn’t needed, leading to upper body soft tissue and possible broken bone issues in the chest.

Liability and Attorney Services

While we would never accuse any company of intentionally placing faulty airbags in their vehicles, the fact remains that these issues do take place – and the manufacturer is often liable. If you’ve been injured by a faulty or malfunctioning airbag, contact our auto accident attorneys right away to determine if you might have a liability claim to make.

For more on airbag deployment, or to learn about any of our personal injury lawyer services, speak to the staff at the offices of William Rawlings & Associates LLC today.

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Sep 06 2019

Tax Ramifications for Personal Injury Settlements or Judgments

While they’re never anyone’s favorite subject, taxes for a variety of income forms are always areas we have to consider. And while you may not have thought so previously, a monetary sum you receive as a result of a settlement or judgment based on a personal injury case may count as income that requires taxation.

At the offices of William Rawlings & Associates, we have a personal injury lawyer ready for you regardless of your claim type, whether it’s an auto accident, dog bite claim or any other kind of personal injury issue. We’re also happy to go over the details of any tax-related areas for you, areas that have changed significantly since new tax reform laws were passed back in 2017. While the answer to any of your tax questions may depend on individual circumstance, here are some general guidelines in terms of which settlement or judgement funds are taxable and which might be tax-free.

tax personal injury settlements judgments

Claim Origin

For starters, the primary determinant of whether your settlement or judgement will be taxed as income is the origin of the claim in question. Is the claim being made to recovery compensation based on areas like lost wages, emotional distress or related themes? In these cases, the money received will generally be taxable. However, as we’ll get into in subsequent sections, there are other recovery types that may not be taxed.

Pre-Settlement Agreement

If a settlement is being worked on by the plaintiff and defendant of any personal injury case, tax areas should be discussed in detail before completing the settlement. While any agreements made here technically aren’t binding by the IRS, they cannot be disputed if they are properly agreed upon in writing by both parties.

Physical Injuries or Sickness

Before the year 1996, when laws were changed, taxes were very different when it came to personal injury cases: They generally did not apply for any kind of personal injury damages, even emotional distress, defamation or similar areas.

Since then, laws have restricted non-taxed damages to specifically physical areas only. If you are physically injured or become sick as a result of the incident in question, funds recovered under this portion of liability generally will not be taxed.

Punitive Damages and Interest

If you are paid punitive damages on top of compensatory areas, or if your settlement includes interest in any way, these fund types are virtually always taxed.

Attorney’s Fees

Finally, while we wish it were not the case, the law says that all money you receive for lost wages and emotional distress must be taxed – including any portions you divert to attorney’s fees. If the funds you’re recovering are physical in nature and therefore not taxable, however, you generally won’t have to worry about tax on attorney’s fees either.

For more on the tax ramifications associated with personal injury cases, or to learn about any of our auto accident or personal injury service, speak to the staff at the offices of William Rawlings & Associates today.

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Aug 16 2019

E-Cigarettes and Potential Personal Injury Liability

Introduced just over a decade ago, electronic cigarettes – abbreviated e-cigarettes or simply e-cigs in many cases – have exploded in popularity around the country and even the globe. These devices, which are often marketed as safer, healthier alternatives to harmful cigarettes, come in numerous shapes and sizes, and from a number of different manufacturers.

At the offices of William Rawlings & Associates, our personal injury attorneys are beginning to see a rise in the number of cases related to these devices and their use. What are e-cigs, and are they truly healthier than cigarettes? Perhaps more importantly for our readers, are there situations where their manufacturers might be liable for certain negative outcomes? Here’s a look at everything you need to know.

e-cigarettes personal injury liability

E-Cigarette Basics

E-cigarettes comprise a variety of devices out there on the market today. Their basic construction involves a battery-powered tube that can heat up a pre-concocted solution, one generally made from a combination of nicotine, propylene glycol and glycerin. Together, these ingredients form a material that can be heated into vapor form, then inhaled by the user.

These devices come with numerous flavor choices. The general idea here is that by avoiding the true smoke and several other highly harmful elements of traditional cigarettes, this is a safer alternative for those who require a nicotine fix.

E-Cig Health Risks

And while it may indeed be true that e-cigarettes bring certain health upgrades on traditional cigarettes, they come with their own set of risks as well. Users may experience higher rates of respiratory problems, cardiovascular issues, eye irritation, and even potential harm to unborn babies. On top of this, a high percentage of e-cig users also still smoke regular cigarettes. To top it off, there’s limited research data on the long-term health effects of e-cigs.

Now, it’s important to note that many of these areas do not fall under the realm of personal injury. If you are using these devices by your own choice, you accept the basic assumed risks of inhaling substances that might not be good for you.

Non-Assumed Risks and Personal Injury

That said, there are several instances where the manufacturer of e-cigarettes could be listed as liable in a personal injury case. There have been several publicized incidents where these devices have overheated or even exploded, causing injury to the person using them or even others nearby. Issues such as facial burns, teeth knocked out, eye injuries, and even fractured bones in the face or nearby areas have all taken place. If you or a loved one has been the victim of such an event, it’s entirely possible you could have a claim against the manufacturer or vendor of these products, and you should contact a personal injury lawyer from our offices right away.

To learn more about e-cigarettes and personal injury cases, or for information on any of our car accident, dog bite or other attorney services, speak to the staff at the offices of William Rawlings & Associates today.

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Aug 09 2019

Basics of EDR Vehicle Systems and Role in Accident Cases

At the offices of William Rawlings & Associates, LLC, we have a long history with car accident cases and can tell you about one common complicating factor: Hazy, unreliable memories. As authorities (and then later, personal injury attorneys) attempt to reconstruct the events of a given accident and determine who is at fault, imperfect memories – skewed even further by the trauma that just took place, in many cases – can make this process more difficult and complex.

Many know that the air industry has what are called black boxes, event recorders that keep track of important information in case there’s a crash or some other incident. Did you realize that modern vehicles have a version of this same technology as well? It’s called an event data recorder (EDR), and it’s a piece of technology that can often play a big role in auto accident injury and related personal injury cases. Here’s a primer on EDR systems and what you need to know about them.

EDR systems accident cases

EDR Basics and History

EDR systems were first created in the 1990s, and were originally designed as monitors for airbag deployment during vehicle accidents. Since then, they’ve increased their capacity significantly – they now record over 30 different data points, from seatbelt use to vehicle speed, brake usage, seat position, roll angles during a crash, weight of the occupants in their seats, and much more.

In the year 2014, US Congress passed a law requiring that all new vehicles manufactured in the country contain EDR systems. Most manufacturers had been using them well before this, however.

EDR Recording Types

There are two kinds of data recorded by EDR systems:

  • Deployment events: If any airbags in the vehicle deploy during the collision, all data from the event is permanently saved. This data includes information from just before the accident, during it, and then following it (about 20 seconds of data in total).
  • Nondeployment events: In cases where the airbags do not deploy, the same information will be tracked – but will only be stored for a period of time, then eventually overwritten. However, it can still be accessed in the short-term if necessary for investigators.

Reconstructing Accidents

As you might imagine, the data provided by EDR systems can be enormously valuable for helping reconstruct the events of an accident. Instead of working only with physical remnants of the accident and the memories of those involved, which can be hazy and outright unreliable in some cases after trauma, investigators can use the data provided to get a clearer picture. If you’re ever involved in an accident and believe the other party was at fault, contact our auto accident attorneys right away for help with locating and preserving EDR data for use in your case.

For more on EDR systems and how they can assist with vehicle accident cases, or to learn about any of our other personal injury attorney services, speak to the staff at the offices of William Rawlings & Associates today.

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Aug 02 2019

Assessing Drowning Basics, Misconceptions and Liability

During the summer season each year, we unfortunately see a general rise in the number of drowning incidents that take place. Particularly risky for young children and adolescents, where it’s a leading cause of unintentional death, drowning can be a risk in a few different scenarios.

At the offices of William Rawlings & Associates, LLC, we handle numerous drowning cases within both our wrongful death and personal injury attorney services (drowning is not always a fatal event, as we’ll discuss in a bit). Let’s go over the basics of drowning, a couple common misconceptions that have made the rounds, and discuss whether there might be liability factors at play in certain drowning situations.

drowning basics misconceptions liability

Drowning Definition and Types

According to the World Health Organization, drowning is described as “the process of experiencing respiratory impairment from submersion/immersion in liquid; outcomes are classified as death, morbidity and no morbidity.”

As this paragraph indicates, and as we mentioned above, drowning encompasses many cases where death does not take place – in fact, the vast majority of recorded drownings are non-fatal. But even in these cases, drowning can be a major event, with even small amounts of liquid entering the lungs and causing damage to the lining found there. This liquid can also lead to infection, fluid buildup or inflammation. Luckily, the symptoms here will generally be easy to spot and remedy.

“Secondary Drowning” and Related Misconceptions

Unfortunately, a number of popular news outlets and social media mediums have published reports about something called “secondary drowning” or “dry drowning.” These terms refer to cases where children or others were rescued from water during a potential drowning situation, appeared just fine immediately afterward, but then died without warning hours or even days later.

The terms listed above are not medically accurate, and in reality these situations are virtually nonexistent. If death or other drowning symptoms do take place long after the initial event, there will be signs pointing to this – your child will have labored breathing, for instance, or may cough, wheeze, report chest pain or even become dizzy. In other cases, a different medical condition is the reason for the death or other symptoms. If you see any of these signs in someone who was rescued from water, seek immediate medical attention.

Drowning and Liability

In some cases, a person who has drowned or their family may have a liability claim related to the incident. The most common such situations are those where a public swimming location was not safe – perhaps conditions make slips more likely, or deep water was not marked properly. If it can be proven that negligence on the part of pool operators, or even of others present in the pool at the time, was the cause of a drowning incident, the victim could have a claim. If you believe this to be the case for you or someone close to you, speak to our personal injury lawyers right away to find out more.

To learn more about drowning cases, or for information on any of our personal injury or auto accident attorney services, speak to the staff at William Rawlings & Associates, LLC today.

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Jul 19 2019

Personal Injury Claims and Pre-Existing Conditions

If you’ve suffered one of several forms of personal injury where another party is potentially liable, you’ll often be claiming compensation from the insurance company associated with this party. And as unfortunate as it may seem, while these companies are ostensibly in place to protect groups and individuals in case of incidents like this, insurance providers will often fight tooth and nail to avoid paying out this compensation if they don’t have to.

At the offices of William Rawlings & Associates, our personal injury attorneys have years of experience dealing with insurance companies and their various tactics for attempting to refuse payment to deserving clients. One common strategy these companies will take: Attempting to deny your claim based on what’s called a pre-existing condition. Let’s go over everything you need to know here.

personal injury pre-existing conditions

Insurance Companies and Pre-Existing Conditions

As we alluded to above, even if they attempt to claim otherwise, insurance companies generally aren’t on your side whatsoever as you attempt to seek damages for an accident. One of their top potential tactics is using a pre-existing medical condition you already had present as the reason for injuries that were actually caused by a vehicle accident that, in reality, had nothing to do with the condition in question.

Unfortunately, this reflects the fact that insurance companies are for-profit businesses that want to keep their profits high. Even when it involves morally questionable areas like erroneously leaning on your medical history to direct the blame for your injuries elsewhere, they’re willing to do it. They’ll generally attempt to prove that your injury was solely caused by your pre-existing condition, and not in any way cause or even aggravated by the accident in question.

Pre-Existing Condition Examples

There are a number of pre-existing conditions insurance companies may look to here, including (but not limited to) each of the following:

  • Various heart conditions
  • High blood pressure
  • Asthma or allergies
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Osteoporosis
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Depression
  • Type 2 diabetes

Complications from various past medical treatments you’ve received (this one is particularly common if you’ve had any recent surgeries or operations).

Making a Successful Claim

A few areas that are important for ensuring an insurance company is not successful at erroneously placing the blame for an accident on your pre-existing condition include:

  • Doctor: You should see a doctor or another medical professional as soon as possible after the accident. They can specifically document the injuries you suffered due to the accident, including exacerbation of prior conditions due to the accident (if the accident is proven to have not been your fault, you’ll be due compensation in this case).
  • Truthfulness: Never lie about your pre-existing condition – insurance companies have high-level researchers in their employ, and they’ll find out the truth. If you are dishonest, this can be used against you in court.
  • Police: Cooperate with all police and first responders after an accident, plus ask for a full police report to use as evidence in your case.

For more on avoiding circumstances where an insurance company denies your claim based on a pre-existing condition, or to learn about any of our personal injury or auto accident attorney services, speak to the staff at the offices of William Rawlings & Associates today.

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Jul 12 2019

Fault and Liability for Construction Zone Vehicle Accidents

While we wish it were not the case, construction zones on or near roadways are potential hotbeds for accidents and hazardous conditions. A far-too-large number of both construction workers and drivers alike are hurt or even killed in work zones due to traffic accidents every year, in many cases due to negligence by one party or another.

At the offices of William Rawlings & Associates, LLC, we’re proud to provide auto accident injury attorney services for a variety of car accident types, including those that take place in or around construction zones. Let’s look at some data on how common these incidents are, some important information on both driver and work zone responsibility, and how to handle things if you believe you have a case against another party in this realm following an accident.

liability construction zone accidents

Data on Construction Zones and Accidents

Per a study by the Federal Highway Administration back in 2010, construction zone sites featured nearly 90,000 vehicle accidents per year at the time of the research – numbers that have only increased in the subsequent years. Those accidents led to nearly 40,000 injuries, plus significant property damage and, of course, many deaths.

In addition, hundreds of road construction workers are hurt or killed in work zones every year. These deaths or injuries are often avoidable based on a few important factors, which we’ll discuss below.

Driver Responsibility

It’s important to note that despite the fact that construction zones do often present different road conditions or even potential hazards, drivers in these areas have reasonable levels of responsibility placed on them. They must remain within the proper directed areas within any work zone, and also need to be paying attention, observing the speed limit and preparing themselves in case of being instructed in any way by a licensed construction zone worker. Failure to meet any of these basic standards could mean liability for an accident rests at the feet of the driver in many situations.

Work Zone Requirements and Possible Issues

In addition to driver requirements, there are several basic conditions that must be met by construction zone organizers and workers to ensure the area is safe near a roadway:

  • Signage: Signs must be both correct and easily legible, plus not confusing or misleading in any way.
  • Warnings: In any situation where lanes close, shift or merge, or when a significant change in speed is required, drivers must be given sufficient visual warning.
  • Cones and barrels: Cones and barrels are regularly used to mark off certain construction areas, and they must be placed correctly.
  • Dangerous road conditions: Pavement that’s uneven, blocked, contains large holes or isn’t properly lighted should be limited, and must be identified to drivers.

Vehicles: Construction vehicles entering or leaving the primary roadway must do so carefully and without being reckless.

Accidents and Liability

If you’ve been involved in an accident in a construction zone, the above factors will go a long way toward determining fault and liability. If you feel a construction zone has not met any of the above-stated conditions, you might have a claim against this party – contact our car accident attorneys right away to find out more.

For more on this or any of our other personal injury attorney services, speak to the staff at the offices of William Rawlings & Associates today.

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Jun 21 2019

Insurance Companies and Prolonged Treatment After Car Accidents

As anyone who has been through this situation will know, the process of obtaining proper compensation from an insurance company after a car accident can be arduous and stressful. Insurance companies, whether your own or that of a liable party in your case, are always looking for loopholes and excuses that will get them out of paying major funds, and they’ll often go to great lengths here.

At the Law Offices of William Rawlings & Associates, we’re proud to offer you quality car accident injury attorney services that will help balance the scales here. We’ve spent years dealing with both liable parties and their insurance companies, with many former insurance adjusters in the fold who understand exactly how these companies work – and how to fight against some of the tactics they’ll use.

One particularly stressful area in some auto accident injury cases is what’s called prolonged recovery. Lucky car accident victims may recover quickly from physical injury, or may even have very little such injury to begin with, but many less fortunate people will suffer back pain, neck pain or other symptoms that linger on for weeks or months after the accident. In these cases, insurance companies will try a few specific tactics to avoid covering this prolonged care – let’s look at each of these tactics and how we’ll help you fight back against them.

insurance prolonged treatment car accidents

Issues of “Malingering”

Insurance companies often like to put a sparkly bow on even some of their most negative behaviors, and this area is a good example. Representatives are obviously instructed never to tell someone outright that they’re faking or exaggerating an injury – instead, they’ll use the term “malingering.”

Really, though, you know what they mean. This is often the first argument made against providing compensation for treatment that comes weeks or months after an accident, one where the insurance provider claims you don’t actually need the treatment and are exaggerating.

Pre-Existing Conditions

If the malingering excuse doesn’t work, many insurance companies will next move to pre-existing conditions. As the term suggests, they’ll go out of their way to try and prove that your current physical symptoms are not a result of your vehicle accident – rather, that they’re due to a previously present condition of some kind. They’ll dig deep into medical records, even going years back to previous physical therapy or any other evidence that might suggest the injury came from somewhere else.

Unrelated to Accident

Finally, if both of the above are unsuccessful, the insurance company may just argue that the treatment you received wasn’t relevant for accident-related injuries. They may ask why you didn’t go to the ER directly after the accident, for instance, and then use that fact to claim that future treatments are not connected because you clearly weren’t in pain right after the accident (a straw man argument our attorneys can quickly poke holes in, as not all accident injuries are immediately visible).

For more on ensuring you have the proper compensation for prolonged treatment after a vehicle accident, or to learn about any of our personal injury attorney services, speak to the staff at the Law Offices of William Rawlings & Associates today.

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Jun 14 2019

Getting Just Compensation After Motorcycle Accidents

For those who ride motorcycles as a primary form of transportation, safety is vital. Motorcycle riders are eight times more likely to be injured in an accident than passengers in a vehicle, and these injuries are often severe due to limited protection for those riding them.

At the Law Offices of William Rawlings & Associates, LLC, we’re here to help if you have a motorcycle accident injury and believe you may have a case for damages against a liable party. Unfortunately, there are a few strange misconceptions out there that may impact the way your case goes – let’s clear these up and look at some common statistics and case values for motorcycle accidents, plus how you can get your just compensation.

just compensation motorcycle accidents

Motorcycle Injury Statistics

There are a high number of motorcycle accidents in the United States each year, and while precise figures vary based on the source, there’s no question that over 5,000 drivers die each year due to motorcycle collisions. Nearly another 90,000 will be injured in such accidents.

As we noted above, these accidents often come with major injury risks. Even minor motorcycle collisions pose significant such risks to those riding them, especially if any safety equipment is lacking at the time.

Common Prejudice Against Motorcyclists

Unfortunately, there’s a common prejudice that may make its way into certain folks’ opinion of motorcycle-related accidents. Like it or not, some people view motorcycles as inherently dangerous or flashy, and thus will attempt to pin the blame for any accident involving them on the motorcycle driver – even if the incident clearly was not their fault in reality.

Speaking of reality, it doesn’t line up with this perception. A high percentage of motorcyclists are at least 40 years old, not the daredevil youths some are imagining, and well over half of all collisions involving motorcycles are actually caused by drivers of other vehicles. An experienced personal injury attorney will be able to highlight these important realities to all necessary parties during your case.

Case Value Potential

Per information form Jury Verdict Research, motorcycle injury verdicts are often quite high, with a median approaching $75,000 per case for years in the early 2000s (amounts that have gone up since due to inflation and other factors). Know that if you’ve been injured in such a situation, you could potentially have a claim for a high dollar value.

Dealing With Insurance Companies

Unfortunately, like with other car accident formats, your insurance company is not actually always trying to help you here. Rather, they’re trying to find reasons not to pay out compensation for an accident, such as attempting to prove you were at fault when this isn’t the case. Luckily, our attorneys are here to represent your interests to these bodies and get you the compensation you deserve, whether through a fair settlement or even a trial process.

For more on motorcycle accidents and liability, or to learn about any of our personal injury lawyer services, speak to the staff at the Law Offices of William Rawlings & Associates, LLC today.

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Jun 07 2019

Understanding Passenger Van Accident Liability

While certain car accident injury cases are relatively straightforward when it comes to assigning blame and liability, many others are not. There are numerous situations that lead to and cause car accidents, possibly including multiple parties and liability areas, and it can sometimes be more complex to determine precisely who was at fault or is liable.

At the Law Offices of William Rawlings & Associates, our auto accident injury attorneys are here to help no matter the complexity of your case. One area that may require a careful hand? Passenger claims, or cases where passengers in a given vehicle type have liability claims against the driver of either their own vehicle or others involved. One such issue is when a passenger van is involved in an accident – here are some important facts and themes to understand for these cases.

passenger van accident liability

Passenger Van Definition and Risks

Passenger vans are defined as those that can accommodate between 12 and 15 occupants, or sometimes even more. They’re commonly used by many different groups, from resort and tour companies to airport shuttles, church groups and many others. They’re also regularly used for daycare, senior care and similar areas.

Passenger vans, by definition, are larger than other vehicle types. They’re longer, taller and wider, meaning driving them requires different skills than most other cars. Side mirrors are required more often for changing lanes, for instance, and braking needs to be applied more liberally during all situations.

And unfortunately, passenger vans are also at greater risk for collisions. Rollover risk are much higher due to the weight of people in the van, and other factors like negligence or improper maintenance may play a role as well.

NHTSA Areas

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is an overview body that helps govern several related areas here, and it treats passenger and commercial vans as something of a gray area vehicle. While the NHTSA recommends that passenger vans have commercial driver’s licenses, this is not a legal requirement in most areas.

The NHTSA has other areas it recommends as well, but again, no hard requirements. It highly advises checking tires for proper inflation levels to prevent rollover issues, especially on longer trips. It also recommends proper cargo placement within these vehicles – too much reliance on roof-top luggage racks will increase rollover risks. Finally, passenger vans should never tow anything, and all passengers should remain seated with their seatbelts on at all times while in these vehicles.

Getting Proper Compensation

If you’ve been part of a passenger van accident that left you injured, you could have a case for compensation from the party liable for the accident. Our attorneys are here to go over the details of your case and advise you on your next steps.

For more on passenger vans and liability, or to learn about any of our personal injury attorney services, speak to the staff at the Law Offices of William Rawlings & Associates today.

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