Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Personal Injury Laws in Indiana
Below are the answers to common initial questions many clients have when they first contact Keller and Keller. We hope that the information below address many initial concerns you may have, but if you don't find the answers here, please contact us with questions specific to your case. The consultation is free and confidential.
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Does my back pain have to be caused by physical impairment to qualify for SSDI?
Worldwide, back pain is the single leading cause of disability and is one of the most common reasons for missed work, according to the American Chiropractic Association. Back pain can be agonizing and incapacitating, but unless there is a medically determinable impairment, you will not be likely to qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. Getting the right diagnosis for your back pain is the key to qualifying for the benefits you need.
Causes of Debilitating Back Pain
Chronic back pain can be caused by a variety of conditions, some of which are temporary, such as muscle strains and minor fractures. In order to qualify for SSDI, your condition must be caused by an impairment that is expected to last for at least a year. The condition must also involve a physical abnormality of the spine or spinal column that is documented by an x-ray, MRI, doctor’s notes, or another acceptable medical test. Some back conditions that may qualify for SSDI include the following:
- Degenerative disc disorder
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Spinal stenosis
- Herniated disc
- Nerve root compression
Even if you are diagnosed with one of these conditions, you will not automatically qualify for disability benefits. You will have to provide medical records proving that your symptoms match the requirements in the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) listing of impairments for spinal disorders and you will have to demonstrate that your condition prevents you from performing tasks required by your job.
How Keller & Keller Helps People With Debilitating Back Pain
The SSA sees more applications citing back pain than any other condition, so it is vital that you work with an experienced disability attorney to present the most complete application possible. The attorneys in our Indianapolis and Granger offices will make sure that your back pain has been properly diagnosed, that you have the required medical documentation, and that you have proof that your functional limitations prevent you from working. If you are suffering from back pain and are unable to work, contact us for a free case evaluation. If we can help you, we will.
What is an Administrative Law Judge Hearing?
If you have paid into the Social Security system for at least five of the last ten years, you should be considered fully insured and, if you become disabled and are unable to work, you should qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). It may sound simple enough, but it is unfortunately not often that simple. An estimated 65 percent of first time SSDI benefits are denied. This is not the end of the road, however, and a qualified SSDI attorney from Keller & Keller can help you through the appeals process. One step along the way is the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Hearing.
What Happens at an ALJ Hearing?
If your original application is denied and you have good cause to file an appeal, your case may be reconsidered. If it is denied again, you may be able to file another appeal and be granted a hearing with an Administrative Law Judge. Here is how this works:
- This is an informal hearing with a judge in a conference room, not a courtroom. Hearings generally last about an hour and a half.
- Attending the hearing will be you, your attorney, the Administrative Law Judge, and a hearing monitor to record the proceedings. The judge may also want to hear from vocational and medical experts. Your attorney may also call witnesses to testify on your behalf.
- You will be asked questions about your work history, education, medical history, symptoms, perceived work limitations, daily activities, and more. The judge’s goal is to determine your level of disability.
- Your attorney will prepare evidence of the emotional and physical pain you have experienced and how the injury or illness has affected your ability to work.
- In Indiana, roughly 45 percent of these hearings find in favor of the claimant.
Indiana has hearing offices in Indianapolis, Fort Wayne, Evansville, and Valparaiso, and remote meetings can also be scheduled.
Do Not Go Through the Appeals Process Alone
While you are not required to have an attorney representing you for the SSDI application and appeals process, it is highly recommended that you do. Fill out our free case evaluation form to find out how the Indianapolis office of Keller & Keller can help you through this difficult and frustrating process to get you the benefits you have earned.
What is the Compassionate Allowances program?
When a person has been diagnosed with a rapidly progressing or fatal condition, getting help quickly is essential. The average waiting time for a decision about a Social Security disability application can be as long as two years, so if you are in need of immediate assistance, you would be out of luck, even with retroactive benefits. However, under the Social Security Administration’s Compassionate Allowances (CAL) program, certain conditions can be approved almost immediately to ensure you get the benefits you need when you need them.
What Conditions Qualify for CAL?
Through the Compassionate Allowances program, the Social Security Administration (SSA) identifies claims where the applicant’s disease or condition clearly meets their statutory standard for disability. To qualify as disabled by the SSA, you must demonstrate all of the following:
- You cannot do the work you did before your illness or injury.
- You cannot adjust to other work because of your medical condition, according to the SSA’s assessment.
- Your disability has lasted or is expected to last for at least one year or to result in death.
The SSA understands that certain conditions, just based on the diagnosis, will inevitably meet these standards and expedites the decision-making process so the applicant can begin receiving their monthly benefits right away. There are over 250 conditions currently on the CAL list, including the following:
- Many forms of metastasized cancer, including bladder, breast, esophageal, gallbladder, kidney, liver, lung, ovarian, and more
- Childhood cancers, such as neuroblastoma, lymphoma, and leukemia
- Early-onset Alzheimer’s disease
- The ALS-Parkinsonism Dementia Complex
- Various heart conditions, including awaiting a heart transplant
A complete list of conditions currently approved for CAL can be found on the SSA website.
How an Indiana Disability Attorney Can Help
While the SSA says that their cutting-edge technology quickly identifies claims that qualify for CAL, mistakes can be made. You may also have a serious diagnosis that is not listed as an approved condition, but which should qualify you for expedited benefits. When you don’t have any time to spare, make sure your SSDI application is not overlooked. Call our Indianapolis law office to get an SSDI attorney working on your claim from your initial diagnosis. We are here to help!
Do I need a lawyer for my Indiana disability claim?
The Social Security disability application process is confusing and difficult. In fact, nearly two-thirds of initial SSDI applications are denied every year, often simply because information is incomplete or missing. While you don’t technically need a lawyer to apply for benefits, your chances of approval are significantly better if you work with one. Find out how an Indiana disability attorney can help with your initial application or your appeal and whether it is worth it for you to hire one.
What Our Indianapolis Attorneys Can Do for You
If you have paid into the Social Security system and will be unable to work for at least a year due to illness or injury, you may think your disability application will be easily approved. Unfortunately, it’s often not that simple. In a free consultation with our disability attorneys, we will discuss helping you with the following:
- Determining eligibility. Many people are denied because they were not eligible to apply for benefits in the first place. Our attorney will review your claim for free and let you know if you should apply for benefits or not. This can save you significant time and trouble. If you have already been denied, we will let you know if you have grounds for an appeal.
- Preparing the application. If you decide to hire us, we will help you fill out and submit the application, ensuring that it is complete and that you meet all of the criteria.
- Arguing for eligibility. In order to qualify for SSDI, you must show that your condition is included in the SSA’s Listing of Impairments or that it is as serious as one of the conditions listed. This can be difficult to prove without an experienced disability attorney.
- Filing an appeal. Wherever you are in the application process, our attorneys can step in and help with the next step. If you are appearing before an Administrative Law Judge, we will prepare a detailed brief to argue your case.
The earlier in the process you hire an attorney, the more we will be able to help. Our initial consultation is always free, and we don’t charge a fee until and unless you are awarded benefits. Attorney fees for SSDI claims are regulated by federal law, so you can be sure our fees are fair.
Call Keller & Keller Today
So, should you hire an attorney to help with your SSDI application? Schedule your free consultation with us and find out. You have nothing to lose by meeting with our attorney, and you could have everything to gain. Fill out our free case review form and we will be in touch with you soon.
What if the person who hit me doesn't have insurance?
By law, all registered vehicles in New Mexico must be covered by car insurance. Yet New Mexico continues to have one of the highest rates of uninsured motorists in the country, according to the Insurance Research Council. Their 2017 report revealed that 20.8 percent of New Mexico drivers were uninsured in 2015. That means that if you are in a collision with another driver in Albuquerque, there is a nearly 1 in 4 chance that he or she will not have insurance. While there are penalties for uninsured motorists, including fines and license suspension, getting in a collision with an uninsured motorist puts an unintended penalty on you.
Insurance Requirements in New Mexico
New Mexico minimum coverage law requires drivers to carry liability coverage of $25,000 per person for injury or death, $50,000 total injury or death if there are multiple people in the vehicle, and $10,000 for property damage. If you are injured in a crash with an insured driver and he is found to be at fault, you would be able to file a claim to recover up to the limits of his insurance policy. However, if he does not have insurance, you will not be able to recover anything from him. He may be fined and even lose his license for not having insurance, but that won’t help you with medical bills, property damage, and other losses.
Protect Yourself by Carrying the Right Insurance
Therefore, it is important to protect yourself in advance for the possibility that you will be involved in an accident with an uninsured motorist in New Mexico. Because of this potential risk, many drivers carry a form of coverage known as uninsured (UM) or underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage. UM/UIM coverage protects drivers when they suffer a property damage loss or injury from an accident with an uninsured motorist. If you have uninsured motorist coverage, and it is confirmed that the at-fault driver does not have insurance, then your own insurance company should compensate you for your medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering, as well as damage to your vehicle.
Some people are hesitant to file an uninsured claim for their accident since they are pursuing their own insurance policy. Though pursuing your own insurance company may not make sense initially, it is important to understand that you pay monthly premiums for this coverage and it is there to protect you.
Hire an Experienced New Mexico Car Accident Attorney
If you discover that the driver who caused your accident is uninsured, your first move should be to call the car accident attorneys at Keller and Keller in Albuquerque. We will help you file a claim with your own UM/UIM policy if you have the coverage, or investigate the possibility of a civil suit against the at-fault driver. It is important that you do not give up hope. Our attorneys will help you get the best possible recovery. Fill out the form on this page to connect with us today.
How does witness testimony help a claim for compensation after an Indiana car accident?
You may be confident that your Indianapolis car accident was caused by the other driver, but he may be just as confident that he did nothing wrong. Car crashes often come down to one driver’s word against the other’s. One way to back up your claim that you did not contribute to the cause of the accident is to gather the testimony of eyewitnesses.
Witnesses at the Scene Can Provide Powerful Testimony
Finding people who actually saw the crash as it happened could be vital to proving your claim. The best time to do this is at the scene of the crash. Asking witnesses for their contact information as the crash is cleaned up is an important step to take. However, if you are unable to talk to people at the scene because of your injuries or state of mind, you can follow up later with the police, who should have taken names and phone numbers as they investigated the crash. The more credible your witnesses are, the stronger your claim will be. People witness crashes from various vantage points, including the following:
- Passenger in your car. An uninjured passenger in your car would know what you were doing and may have seen what the other driver was doing right before the crash, but will be considered a biased witness since he or she was in your car.
- Driver of another car. Another driver may have seen the accident unfold and may be able to describe what happened. While this could be a credible witness, he will likely be questioned about how much he could have seen while he was driving his own car.
- Passenger of another car. Like the driver of another car, a passenger in a nearby car may have seen the whole accident. This could be an excellent witness as he would not have been distracted by his own driving and may be able to provide important details.
- Bystander. More common in accidents that happen in populated areas, a pedestrian waiting to cross the street, walking down the sidewalk, or even sitting inside a restaurant could be a highly credible witness if he or she saw the accident from start to finish.
- Surveillance video. Clearly, the most objective “witness” would be footage from a nearby security camera or another driver’s dash cam. Your attorney will investigate this possibility and secure any video that will help your case.
Just like in a criminal case, witnesses will be questioned by the insurance adjuster or attorney for the at-fault party to find something that makes them less credible, such as a criminal record, intoxication at the time of the accident, or distraction by something else going on.
Your Car Crash Attorney From Keller & Keller Will Do the Legwork
You have enough on your plate recovering from your injuries to worry about finding and interviewing witnesses. That’s why it is so important to call an attorney as soon as possible after your crash. When you call Keller & Keller in Indianapolis, we will get to work right away finding and talking to witnesses. It is our job to present the strongest possible claim on your behalf to get you the settlement you deserve.
How can an experienced Indiana truck accident attorney prove truck driver negligence?
A thorough investigation by an experienced law firm is extremely important when you have been seriously injured in a crash with a commercial truck. Truck accident cases are complicated by the fact that legal claims involve not only the driver, but his employer, their attorneys, and their insurer. They also involve federal laws and large insurance policies that most non-commercial crashes do not. The victim of a crash with a commercial truck needs to make sure the circumstances are investigated by someone who is on his side.
How Is a Truck Accident Investigation Conducted?
There are dozens of ways a truck driver, his employer, and other parties involved with the truck may be found liable when a crash occurs. The experienced truck accident attorneys at Keller & Keller will take the following steps to determine liability:
- Investigate the scene of the crash. If the crash was caused by the trucker’s careless or reckless driving, an investigation of the crash scene, including talking to witnesses, reading the police report, and viewing any available video of the accident will provide the evidence needed to hold him accountable.
- Send a spoliation letter. This legal document prevents the trucking company from destroying, altering, or concealing evidence related to the crash. Without this document, the trucker or his employer could erase a digital logbook or conceal other records that could be used as evidence of liability.
- Look for hours of service violation. Federal law limits the number of hours a trucker can drive without a rest break. Our truck crash attorneys will examine the driver’s log book or electronic logging device to determine whether he violated hours of service laws, which could make him liable for the crash.
- Examine driver records. Drivers must also adhere to strict eligibility rules under federal law. Your attorneys will find out whether the trucker in your crash was properly licensed, had a valid health exam on record, and had a clean driving record. If any of these requirements were violated, the driver may be liable for the crash.
- Examine employer records. If the trucker’s employer failed to conduct adequate background checks, failed to administer drug testing, or allowed an unqualified driver behind the wheel of one of their trucks, they may also be held liable for your injuries.
- Any other necessary steps. Our Indiana truck accident attorneys have many years of experience investigating these kinds of crashes and will go to whatever lengths are necessary to hold the negligent parties accountable.
Our Attorneys Are Experienced Investigators
Seeking immediate counsel with the law firm of Keller and Keller will help to ensure that valuable evidence does not disappear. We will investigate your crash and make sure that the liable parties are identified and held accountable. Call any one of our Indiana offices today to find out more about how we can help.
- Dangerous Trends in the Indiana Trucking Industry
- Box and Delivery Trucks Can Cause Serious Accidents
- Commercial Truck Driving Laws in Indiana
What are the dangers of Indiana hazmat trucks?
We see large tankers carrying hazardous materials on Indiana roads every day. We may not know what’s in the containers, but we know we don’t want to come in contact with whatever it is. When one of these trucks crashes and hazardous material is released, motorists are in danger of more than just broken bones. Exposure to chemicals could cause a variety of ailments, including chemical burns, respiratory damage, eye damage, and organ failure, and the trucker may not be the only liable party.
What Are Hazmat Trucks Carrying?
In Indiana, hazardous materials are grouped by several classifications, depending on risks associated with them. Trucks are required by law to communicate the risks through signage on the tank indicating what is being transported. The driver is also required to carry shipping papers and emergency response information. Trucks in Indiana may be transporting the following materials:
- Class 1: Explosives, including dynamite, flares, fireworks, and ammunition
- Class 2: Flammable or toxic gases, including propane, helium, and compressed fluorine
- Class 3: Flammable liquids, such as gasoline
- Class 4: Flammable solids, such as ammonium picrate, white phosphorus, and sodium hydroxide
- Class 5: Oxidizers and organic peroxides, such as ammonium nitrate and methyl ethyl ketone
- Class 6: Poison and infectious substances, such as potassium cyanide and anthrax virus
- Class 7: Radioactive substances, such as uranium
- Class 8: Corrosives, such as battery fluid
- Class 9: Miscellaneous hazardous materials, such as PCBs
If a hazmat truck crashes and releases any of these materials, even those not directly involved in the crash could suffer injuries.
Who Is Liable for a Hazmat Truck Spill?
In the case of a hazmat truck crash, liability for damages will have to be determined. An investigation into the trucker’s actions, maintenance and repair records on the truck, and actions on the part of the shipper of the hazardous materials must be conducted. If the trucker’s actions caused the crash, but the hazardous materials he was hauling caused most of the harm, there may be a shared responsibility.
Our Indiana Truck Accident Attorneys Will Represent Your Interests
If you were injured or a loved one was killed in a hazmat truck crash, you need a law firm that will pursue every possible liable party on your behalf to get you the compensation you need to recover from your losses. Call Keller & Keller when you want tenacious, experienced representation.
Why do I need a lawyer for my New Mexico semi-truck accident?
If you have been injured in a semi-truck accident in New Mexico, you are already at a disadvantage. Not only are you in pain, but you are probably missing work and have a long road to recovery ahead of you. You want to make sure that the negligent truck driver and the trucking company pay you fully and fairly for your medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. The trucking company likely has a legal team with years of experience handling the many accidents their drivers are involved in, so you should have the same advantage of having an experienced team behind you. Crashes with commercial vehicles are not like car accidents and should not be handled the same way.
How Keller & Keller Can Help Your Recovery
When you hire the experienced truck accident attorneys at Keller & Keller to represent you in your claim against a negligent truck driver, we will strengthen your case by doing the following:
- Conducting a thorough investigation. It is critical that truck accident cases are investigated as soon as possible. Witnesses need to be interviewed before their memories fade and evidence needs to be preserved before it disappears. Our experienced team of investigators will file the necessary paperwork to block the destruction of key pieces of evidence, including driver logs and the truck’s electronic data recorder, to support your claim for compensation.
- Standing up to aggressive insurance companies. The trucking company’s insurer has one goal: to save themselves and their insured money. Most commercial trucks carry over $1 million in insurance, so there is a great deal of money on the line. You need someone on your side who is not afraid to stand up to the insurance company and demand the settlement you will need to make up for your losses.
- Fighting claims of shared liability. One way the trucker’s insurer will try to reduce its liability is to pin at least part of the blame on you. New Mexico’s pure comparative negligence law means your recovery will be reduced by the percentage you are found to be at fault. For example, if you are found to be 50 percent to blame for the accident, your settlement will be cut in half. Our attorneys will not allow the trucker’s legal team to influence determination of liability. We will fight to protect your recovery.
Get a Free Analysis of Your New Mexico Truck Accident
When you have been injured in a crash with a commercial semi-truck, call us as soon as possible. Our experienced team of attorneys and investigators will be able to make sure that you get the assistance you deserve. From our office in Albuquerque, we're proud to serve injured victims of trucking accidents throughout all of New Mexico.
What are the most common types of New Mexico truck accidents?
Traveling on I-40 or I-25 in New Mexico, you see plenty of commercial semi-trucks passing through Albuquerque. In fact, I-40 is one of the most dangerous sections of interstate in the country, due in large part to its heavy use by semi-trucks making their way across the country. When you are aware of the kinds of accidents semi-trucks can cause, you may be able to avoid becoming the victim of one.
Types of Truck Accidents Common in New Mexico
Truck accidents can be caused by driver negligence, truck malfunction, negligent maintenance of the truck, or a combination of these issues. Because of their size and weight, there are many different types of accidents that can result, including:
- Jackknife accidents. Jackknifing is a term used to describe what happens when the back end or trailer portion of a truck swings around and creates a fold or an angle between the trailer and the cab. This happens when truck drivers are speeding or following too closely to be able to stop suddenly.
- Underride accidents. Because truck trailers are higher off the ground than most other vehicles on the roadway, cars traveling next to or behind the truck can end up pinned underneath the trailer when the truck stops suddenly. These kinds of crashes are often fatal for the occupants of the car.
- Unsecured cargo accidents. A fully loaded semi-truck can carry tens of thousands of pounds of cargo. If the cargo is not loaded and secured properly, it can fall into the roadway. This can be very dangerous if the truck is carrying hazardous material. Another common accident caused by improperly loaded cargo is overturning. When a truck is attempting to make a turn, it may be thrown off balance by improperly loaded cargo in its trailer.
- Truck driver negligence. Some of the most common examples of truck driver negligence include aggressive driving, drug or alcohol abuse, inexperience, criminal behavior, speeding, texting while driving, unsafe lane movements, and driver drowsiness.
- Failure to maintain the truck. Trucks are driven thousands of miles a week and because of this, it is critical that they are regularly examined and maintained by a trained mechanic. Common problems that can result in serious accidents include brake failure, work tires, defective equipment, improper reflectors and worn out locks and load straps.
- Employer negligence. Employers of truck drivers have a legal obligation to ensure that their drivers are qualified. This means that they have a duty to perform random drug testing, conduct background checks, and take measures to ensure that their drivers are properly trained and licensed. Federal and state regulations require that companies annually review each trucker’s driving record, which includes checking for any traffic violations.
When You Are Injured, You Need a New Mexico Truck Accident Attorney
If you were injured in any of these types of truck accidents in New Mexico, call the truck accident attorneys in our Albuquerque office. We have the experts you need on your side to investigate the crash and support your claim for compensation.
What should I do when I see a reckless truck driver?
Seeing a 40-ton tractor-trailer in front of you swerve off the road or drift out of his lane can be frightening to witness and, if you’re smart, you will back off to avoid a potential collision. However, you can do more to prevent the trucker from harming someone else. When you see a reckless driver, you should report him to the police and to his employer.
How to Spot a Reckless Driver
We’ve all taken our eyes off the road for a second to turn up the heat or set the cruise control and may even swerve out of our lane in the process, but when a driver is drunk, fatigued, or purposely driving aggressively, his behavior should be easy to spot. Look for these signs to see if you are dealing with a dangerous truck driver:
- Driving too fast or too slow
- Weaving in and out of cars
- Drifting out of a lane or driving between lanes
- Excessive braking
If you have been driving behind a truck for several minutes and have witnessed these actions repeatedly, you should report his driving to the state police.
How to Report a Dangerous Driver
The first thing to consider is whether you can safely report a dangerous driver without becoming one yourself. You should either have a passenger do the reporting or pull over when it is safe to do so. If someone has already been hurt or is in immediate danger, you should call 911. If there is no immediate danger as far as you can tell and a passenger is able to help you, look up the nearest Indiana State Police post and call their 800 number. You should try to give them as much of the following information as possible:
- Your location, including nearest mile marker or exit if on the interstate
- The name of the trucking company
- The license plate number and state
- The USDOT number or IN number displayed on the cab of the truck
- Your name and cell phone number
It may not be possible to gather all of this information, but the more you have the more likely it is that the police will be able to find and stop the driver.
How’s My Driving?
If the truck has a sticker on the back with a phone number to report bad driving, you can also call that to report the driver to his or her employer. If there is no sticker, you can still call the trucking company and give them the license or USDOT number.
If you are able to take these steps, you could save a life. If you are injured or a loved one is killed by a reckless truck driver, call Keller & Keller in Indianapolis to help you file a claim. We will check the driver’s record to see if he has been reported in the past for traffic violations, which will help your claim.
What is the most dangerous truck route in New Mexico?
You may never feel all that safe when driving near a commercial semi-truck. After all, your mid-size SUV will not offer much protection if you are sideswiped or rear-ended by a 40-ton tractor-trailer. And what if you are in a head-on collision with one? Your chances of survival are minimal. That is exactly what makes U.S. 550 so dangerous. In fact, it is among the deadliest stretches of road in New Mexico.
What Makes U.S. 550 So Deadly?
This 175-mile stretch of road runs between Bernalillo just north of Albuquerque to the Colorado border, passing through the towns of San Ysidro, Cuba, Nageezi, Bloomfield, and Aztec. It is a four-lane undivided highway with a speed limit of 70 miles per hour. According to the Santa Fe New Mexican, only I-40 had more fatalities per road mile in New Mexico from 2013-2015, and that interstate carries twice the traffic of U.S. 550. With no barrier between the two directions of traffic, vehicles—including semi-trucks—can easily cross the 6-foot-wide median into oncoming traffic. This is exactly what happened in a tragic 2017 crash on U.S. 550—a semi-truck crossed the median and collided with the Crawford family, killing them all. Another family of four—the Millers—were killed in a similar accident on U.S. 550 in 2014.
What Can You Do When You Are the Victim of a Tragic Truck Crash?
While the lack of a barrier and the high speed limit on U.S. 550 make it a dangerous road, it is still a driver’s responsibility to be alert, sober, focused, and in control as they travel on it. When a truck driver fails in this responsibility and causes an accident, he—and possibly his employer—can and should be held liable for the damage that is caused. If you or your passengers are injured or a loved one is killed by a negligent trucker on U.S. 550 in New Mexico, contact the truck accident attorneys Keller & Keller in Albuquerque. We will investigate the crash to determine the cause and stand up to the team of attorneys the trucking company is likely to send in defense of its driver. Whether we are seeking injury damages or wrongful death damages, we will fight for the compensation you deserve. Contact our New Mexico office today.
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