Articles Posted in Brain Injury

Last week’s blog addressed the increase in work place injuries.  While worker’s compensation is generally the exclusive recovery source from the employer, there are other potential sources of recovery. Below are some common scenarios from work place injuries that may result in your ability to recover for your injuries:

Motor Vehicle Accidents/Car Wrecks:

A very common type of third-party claim arising from a workers’ compensation action is when someone gets into a motor vehicle accident or car wreck while driving for work.  Many people drive as part of their jobs: truck drivers, package delivery personnel, sales people who make on-site client visits, construction workers who haul materials, home health workers, even lawyers who have to drive to and from court.

In 2015, 4,836 workers were killed on the job in the United States.  That means, on average, 13 workers die because of injuries on the job every day in the United States.  This is more than the numbers were in 2013 and 2014.  Further, an estimated 50,000 died from occupational diseases.  This means that, in effect, 150 workers die each and every day from hazardous working conditions.

Older workers are at a greater risk. Thirty-five percent of all fatalities occurred in workers age 55 or older, and workers 65 or older have three times the risk of dying on the job as younger workers.

Temporary workers are at an even higher risk of injury.  Temporary workers often receive insufficient training or are inexperienced with how to protect themselves on the job site, but don’t want to complain about the lack of training for fear of losing their job. Temporary workers tend to be younger, less educated and disproportionately consist of minority workers, many of whom might be immigrant workers, according to researchers with the University of Massachusetts.  At the same time, temporary workers are employed in some of the country’s most hazardous jobs, including waste recycling, fish processing and construction.

When a loved one is in an automobile accident that results in a serious injury or even death, it is not uncommon for a family to hire a law firm to represent their interests.  Medical bills, lost wages, the inability to pay for basic things in life because of a loss of income, pain, rehabilitation, loss of life or loss of the enjoyment of life – these are all things that no one is truly able to understand until they have to go through it.  If a serious injury or death is caused by the bad driving or bad decisions of another driver, that person needs to be held accountable for the harm they caused.

Unfortunately, most people driving the roads are not adequately insured to cover a serious injury or death claim.  In Alabama, the minimum insurance limits that are required by law for a driver is $25,000.  If a person with minimum limits seriously injures or kills your loved one, $25,000 is all that is available from the opposing driver’s insurance, which is a drop in the bucket for a serious injury or loss of a loved one.  Many people carry their own underinsured motorist coverage that can also pay, but it is extremely rare for these policies to provide adequate coverage for a serious injury or loss of life.

While most people assume the insurance of the opposing driver and your own insurance is the only possible source of recovery, there are always others avenues that need to be explored by a lawyer in a serious injury or fatal car accident.  One of the main areas our firm researches when helping a family with a serious injury or loss of life is defects in the vehicles themselves.  An issue with steering or a defective tire that blew out may have cause the other car to lose control.  There may have been a defective part on one of the cars that could have prevented the accident from happening in the first place.

            In recent months there have been developments that have raised public awareness of the dangers and prevalence of brain injuries.  Last month a federal district judge in Chicago gave preliminary approval to a reworked head injury settlement between student athletes and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).  Under the terms of this proposed settlement a seventy million dollar fund would be established to test for brain trauma.  In addition, the NCAA is required to strengthen return-to-play rules after a brain injury.  U.S. District Judge John Lee also suggested removing an across-the-board prohibition from future class action lawsuits relating to concussions.  This announcement regarding the NCAA settlement follows an earlier settlement of the National Football League’s (NFL) concussion related lawsuits.  The NFL settlement involved the payment of $765 million in potential compensation.

Just this week it was disclosed that former University of Alabama football great Ken Stabler was suffering from Stage 3 chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) when he died.  Stabler succumbed to colon cancer this summer but for years before his death he displayed symptoms suggestive of CTE.  CTE is a degenerative brain disease that is believed to be caused by repetitive head injuries.  It was originally found in boxers but has now been diagnosed in football players and even baseball players.  Unfortunately, CTE can only be diagnosed positively after death by a microscopic examination of the brain.  CTE involves neurological and physiological changes to the brain including the presence of an abnormal protein called tau.  CTE causes symptoms similar to Alzheimer’s disease and eventually to a progressive deterioration of the brain that leads to dementia.  The NCAA and NFL settlements were, in part, recognition of the prevalence of CTE among student and professional athletes.

The research into these types of brain injury is still in its infancy.  There are many unanswered questions.  It is not known how many concussions it takes to cause CTE or over what period of time this might develop.  The Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy (CSTE) was only created in 2008.  It is believed that repeat head injuries are required to cause CTE.  For this reason the focus of research has been on athletes.  However, this research may eventually assist medical professionals and trial lawyers in evaluating the length and severity of traumatic brain injury in their patients and clients.  What we are learning from this, however, is that the symptoms of TBI can be permanent and even degenerative.

Look at this picture.  It’s called a stereogram, also known as a 3D image within an image.  They were popular in the 90s and have been around ever since.  Within the beautifully colored image is hidden the words “Happy New Year.”  It takes practice and a lot of time to be able to see the image, but it’s there.  You may have to cross your eyes and uncross them, or get real close to the screen and slowly back away, but eventually you can see the hidden image.

Being a trial lawyer can be a lot like looking at a stereogram.  Some of the greatest results we’ve ever had for clients came from cases that, on the surface, may not have looked like much of a case.  People have a natural tendency to see what is on the surface and not look much further.  They also have a natural tendency to not want to keep looking to see if the situation really is as it initially appears.  But any good trial lawyer will tell you that you’ve got to keep staring at the picture, and if you stare long enough, if you dig into the facts deep enough, you can often find another picture hidden in plain sight.*  Here are a few examples:

A car gets blindsided by a big truck, killing the occupants of the car.  The driver of the 18 wheeler says the car pulled right out in front of him, and he never had a chance to stop or put on the breaks.  The officer then writes the accident up as the car pulled out in front of the big truck.  Many families, struck with grief over the situation, will accept what the officer reports and move on.  Some, however, will hire a lawyer to look into it.  We have seen this scenario many times.  When this case comes to us, we hire a professional engineer to do an accident reconstruction to tell us exactly where the vehicles were, how fast they were going, where the impact took place on the road and on the vehicles, and what happened in the accident.  We hire a trucking expert to look at the records of the trucking company and driver to see if they have any major safety violations.  In short, we do a very thorough job of investigating the case.  And what we’ve found out many times is at odds with what was reported – the 18 wheeler was exceeding the speed limit; the driver was over his time driving and was rigging his log books so he could drive more; the big truck veered into the other lane and hit the car instead of staying in his lane and missing it; the 18 wheeler driver, had he been paying attention, had 5 or 6 seconds to see the car and avoid the collision; the truck driver was distracted and on his cell phone.  What was reported as an accident that was our client’s fault turns out to be a really good case against the trucking company.

Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) are among the most serious injuries that can result from an automobile crash. There are several different types of traumatic brain injuries and all of them are medical emergencies which can cause death if not treated promptly.

                Before considering the various types of brain injury that can be caused in a car crash, it might be helpful to consider the circumstances that make head injuries more likely in a crash. Traumatic brain injuries can occur in any car crash, even in low speed collisions. The likelihood of this happening depend on several factors: the safety rating of the car, the direction of impact, seatbelt use, the efficacy of the airbag system and the size and position of the occupants. It is generally agreed, however, that the more severe the crash, the more likely it is that a TBI will occur.

                Crash severity is generally gauged by something referred to as “Delta V.” “Delta V” is an engineering term that simply means difference in velocity. The higher the “Delta V”, the bigger the difference in velocity, the more severe the crash. This is a simplified method for considering the effect of force and energy in a car crash. According to Newton’s second law of motion, force equals mass times acceleration. Force, therefore is a vector quantity. Kinetic energy, however, is a scalar quantity. In a two vehicle crash both vehicles have measurable kinetic energy immediately before the crash. At the end of the crash sequence both vehicles are fully stopped and the total kinetic energy is zero. But this energy has to go somewhere and if it ends up all going into the passenger compartment that is a very bad thing. By determining the Delta V of both vehicles it is possible to gauge the severity of the crash to the accident victims.

In the south, everyone loves football.  You have the Thursday night ESPN college game, high school games on Friday nights, the college games on Saturday, and we even watch our favorite pro teams on Sunday.

The recent billion dollar settlement by the NFL has brought the issue of concussions to forefront of all levels of football.  Concussions are nothing new for football players.  But the acknowledgement of the long lasting effects a concussion can have is something new.

A concussion is a blow to your head, neck or upper body that causes symptoms such as a headache, dizziness, nausea or loss of consciousness. Signs and symptoms of these injuries may not appear until hours or days after the injury. A medical professional may recommend brain imaging to determine whether the injury is severe and has caused bleeding or swelling in your skull.  A blow to the head can also cause a subdural hematoma, which is where there is bleeding between the brain and the skull.  Many experts agree that an acute subdural hematoma due to trauma is the most lethal of all head injuries.  A subdural hematoma also has a high mortality rate if they are not rapidly treated.

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Representing clients who have suffered traumatic brain injury (TBI) presents unique challenges.  Many personal injury law firms do not have the knowhow or the resources to handle these cases.  To effectively represent this special group of clients, a lawyer representing brain injury victims must understand the physiology of the brain, the psychological effects of these injuries and have the financial resources to put together a team of consultants and experts who can assist the client in a rehabilitative process.

Traumatic brain injury can occur when something outside the body strikes the head with enough force to cause changes within the brain.  Traumatic brain injury can be mild, moderate or severe.  TBI is common in car accidents but it often goes undiagnosed.  Even mild traumatic brain injury can significantly effect a person’s ability to function physically or emotionally.  Symptoms of traumatic brain injury include loss of consciousness, headaches, memory loss, blurred eyesight, change or loss of sense of taste or smell, change in speech patterns, loss of hearing, difficulty in concentrating, forgetfulness, frustration, anger, depression and even suicidal ideation.  Moderate or severe traumatic brain injury can be totally debilitating, causing a person to be unable to work or have normal relationships with other people.  For people who have sustained TBI, prompt diagnoses, treatment and rehabilitation are critical.

Lawyers are not medical providers and good lawyers do not attempt to give medical advice.  But lawyers with experience handling TBI cases will have relationships with consultants and experts that can assist clients in getting the help they need in beginning to recover from these debilitating injuries.  In this regard the lawyer’s role is not just to present the client’s case to a court or jury; it is to assist in the physical or psychological recovery of the client.

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