Former football player with Traumatic Brain Injury Related Dementia Takes his Own Life

Traumatic brain injury is often misunderstood because it is not seen. Only the symptoms indicate there is a problem.

The difficulty with traumatic brain injury is that many in the sports world still laugh about having their ‘bell rung.’ Many also pick up and get on with their game, not wanting to look less than macho on the field or ice. While macho might be fine for them, they are taking a huge risk with their mental and physical health. If you want to get up close and personal with a hockey player’s long journey to recovery from traumatic brain injury, search for information on Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Traumatic brain injury doesn’t just happen in hockey, as the story about Ray Easterling points out.

Just recently, defensive back Ray Easterling, best known for playing with the Atlanta Falcons in the late 70s, took his own life at the age of 62. On the field he took no prisoners and played hard; a real football hero with the right mix of aggression and intuition to make his sport seem effortless to others. He was watched with awe and envy by others wanting to be him when they grew up and went to college.

Easterling got banged up during his football years and suffered consecutive concussions that eventually led to mental difficulties for him. In 2011, he and six other former National Football League players filed a class-action lawsuit, suggesting the league withheld their knowledge of what frequent concussions would do to players.

Easterling, diagnosed with dementia last year, could not live with the changes he faced on a daily basis. He had struggled to deal with it, made changes to his life to work with it, and did the best he could to just be. He lost that battle one day, but his memory and his legacy lives on.

If anyone does not believe in the dramatic effect that serial concussions has on a person playing sports, you only have to read the stories of those dealing with the side effects now. While many currently involved in sports think that nothing like this could happen to them, they are wrong. It can happen to anyone, and the most frightening thing is that some concussions do not produce symptoms, but that does not mean internal brain damage has not been done.

If you suspect that you have been the victim of traumatic brain injury while playing sports, discuss your case with a qualified Austin personal injury lawyer. You need to know what options you have available, and how to move forward with your life. Be aware that traumatic brain injury happens in many other ways as well, such as motorcycle, bicycle, slip and fall accidents and exposure to concussive shock waves from explosions. If you are not sure if you have a case, contact a seasoned Austin personal injury lawyer and find out the lay of the land.

Brooks Schuelke is an Austin personal injury attorney with Perlmutter & Schuelke PLLC. Contact an Austin injury lawyer at Civtrial.com or (512) 476-4944.

Do Personal Injury Lawyers Make A Difference?

One of my favorite things is disbursements — giving clients their checks from settlements or judgments.

Today, I’m making disbursements in a settlement of a car wreck case, and the case is an example of how personal injury lawyers can help.

Before his hiring of me, the insurance company had made an offer of $924.12 to settle the case.  I do not want to disclose the amounts that we settled for, but we settled for the insurance company for the driver who caused the wreck paying the full amount of its insurance policy and for my client’s underinsured motorist carrier paying the full amount of its policy.

Obviously, this is an extreme case.  But I’m seeing more and more insurance companies try to settle claims directly with clients for ridiculous amounts.  It scares me to think that many accident victims naively accept those amounts.

If you or a loved one is injured in a wreck, at least talk to an injury attorney to make sure that the insurance company isn’t taking advantage of you.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a wreck, we would like to help.  Please contact us by calling (512)476-4944 or by submitting your case through the many submit a case forms on this site.

Eagle Ford Shale and Trucking Accidents

The past two weekends, I’ve had to make working trips to the Texas coast (and I didn’t even see the beach on either trip).  The one thing that struck me on the drives was the increase in traffic, especially trucking traffic.

That’s why it didn’t surprise me to see the headline in Sunday’s Corpus Christi Caller Times describing the increased number of commercial vehicle wrecks resulting from the South Texas oil boom.  Generally, from 2008 to 2011, the number of wrecks in the state of Texas decreased.  But in the 11 Eagle Ford Shale counties, commercial vehicle wrecks (trucking accidents) more than doubled.

Three counties have been hit particularly hard.  In  McMullen County, they had four commercial vehicle wrecks in 2008, and 48 in 2011.  Karnes County went from five wrecks to 77 during the same time, and LaSalle County went from 60 to 187.

These eleven counties are also seeing an increasing number of traffic fatalities.

While a lot of the responsibility lies at the feet of the truckers, drivers in these areas have to be safe too.  You need to be aware of these risks, be patient — don’t pass in no passing zones, and drive defensively.  That’s the only way we’ll all be safer.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a commercial vehicle wreck, let us help.  Contact us by calling (512)476-4944 or by submitting a case on the submit a case forms throughout the website.

Motorcycle Accidents: ROT Rally Motorcycle Fatalities

Austin’s annual Republic of Texas (ROT) Rally has come and gone, and again we’ve had too many motorcycle fatalities.   This year, three motorcyclists were killed during the weekend.

In the first incident, a rider crashed into a guardrail on the Highway 290 flyover and fell off the flyover.

In the second incident, the rider was attempting a turn on Koenig Lane but crashed because his kickstand was down.

In the third, a rider was traveling on MLK Blvd when a Lexus turned in front of him.

Sadly, this makes some progress.  At first glance, only the third incident appears to have been caused by other motorists  (though police are still investigating what caused the first motorcyclist to hit the guardrail).  In years’ past, there seemed to have been more fatalities caused by other drivers.

There could be several reasons for that, but I suspect it’s because Austin drivers are becoming more aware of motorcyclists during ROT Rally weekend.   As Austin continues to host the Rally, people naturally become more aware of it.  But public officials are also pitching in. It appeared to me that there were more signs warning drivers to look out for motorcycles.

Let’s hope that these improvements continue and that we see fewer and fewer motorcycle accidents on ROT weekend and throughout the rest of the year.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a motorcycle accident, please let us to help.  You may call us at (512)476-4944 or submit a case using the forms on this site.

Personal Injury Claim: What If The Victim Dies Before Bringing A Lawsuit?

If a person is injured and later dies as a result of a car wreck or other type of accident, then the nature of the claim is changed.  In such a situation, there are two types of claims.  The person’s family members may bring a wrongful death lawsuit to seek a recovery for the damages that they suffered.  The personal representative of the deceased’s estate may also bring a survival claim on behalf of the deceased.  The survival claim covers the pain and mental anguish that the deceased endured from the time of accident until the death, the cost of medical expenses, and the funeral expenses.

For more information on wrongful death and survival claims, click here.  You can also do a search in the search box for wrongful death and/or survival and it lead you to even more information.

If you have specific questions about a potential wrongful death or survival claim, feel free to call our office at (512)476-4944 or submit a case using the online forms.

 

A Video Game To Help Head Injuries And Brain Injuries?

I’m a huge fan of TED, the Technology, Entertainment, & Design conference.  It’s an annual event that asks some of the world’s most brilliant people to give short speeches on a wide-range of topics.  People pay thousands (or tens of thousands) of dollars to attend live, but most of the talks are presented on the TED website.

This weekend, I was listening to NPR’s Ted Radio Hour Podcast, and I heard the story about Jane McGonigal’s Ted Talk.  Ms. McGonigal is a video game designer, and the thesis of her talk was how video games can be used to solve some of the world’s problems.

But the amazing thing about her story is that she has proven it herself.  You see, in 2009, she suffered a traumatic brain injury.  She was on the brink of suicide when she decided to try to develop a video game that could help her recover.   And it did.   Within months of being on the verge of suicide, she was not only able to improve her condition and cope with her limitations, but she was able to develop and present her TED talk.

That game, Superbetter, is now available to all.  It was released in March of this year and is being used by people all over the world to help them deal with their ailments.  You can watch a video of Ms. McGonigal discussing the game here.

Phases of a Personal Injury Trial: The Jury Questions

In Texas, juries don’t just decide who they want to win and then award money.  Instead, they’re given a series of questions that they answer.  The judge then takes those answers, applies the law, and creates the ultimate award.  To explain how this works, I’m going to show you the jury instructions in a simple car wreck case, and then talk about how those answers are used to come up with the award.

In this case, the driver who caused the wreck is Danny Driver and the victim is Violet Victim.  We’ll also assume that there’s an argument from Danny Driver that Violet did something that helped cause the wreck.

Question 1

Did the negligence, if any, of those named below proximately cause the occurrence in question?

“Negligence” means failure to use ordinary care, that is, failing to do that which a person of ordinary prudence would have done under the same or similar circumstances or doing that which a person of ordinary prudence would not have done under the same or similar circumstances.

“Ordinary care” means that degree of care that would be used by a person of ordinary prudence under the same or similar circumstances.

“Proximate cause” means that cause which, in a natural and continuous sequence, produces an event, and without which cause such event would not have occurred.  In order to be a proximate cause, the act or omission complained of must be such that a person using ordinary care would have foreseen that the event, or some similar event, might reasonably result therefrom.  There may be more than one proximate cause of an event.

Answer “yes” or “no” for each of the following:

Danny Driver      __________

Violet Victim      __________

If you answered “Yes” to Question 1 for more than one of those named below, then answer the following question.  Otherwise, do not answer the following question.

Assign percentages of responsibility only to those you found caused or contributed to the cause of the occurrence.  The percentages you find must total 100%.  The percentages must be expressed in whole numbers.  The percentage of responsibility attributable to any one is not necessarily measured by the number of acts or omissions found.  The percentage attributable to any one need not be the same percentage attributed to that one in answering another question.

Question 2

For each person you found caused or contributed to the occurrence, find the percentage of responsibility attributable to each:

Danny Driver      _________

Violet Victim      _________

TOTAL                        100%

Answer Question 3 if you answered “Yes” for Danny Driver to Question 1 and answered:

1. “No” for Violet Victim to Question 1, or

2. 50 percent or less for Violet Victim to Question 2.

Otherwise, do not answer Question 3.

Question 3

What sum of money, if paid now in cash, would fairly and reasonably compensate Violet Victim for her injuries, if any, that resulted from the occurrence in question?

Consider the elements of damages listed below and none other.  Consider each element separately.  Do not award any sum of money on any element if you have otherwise, under some other element, awarded a sum of money for the same loss.  That is, do not compensate twice for the same loss, if any.  Do not include interest on any amount of damages you find.

Answere separately, in dollars and cents, for damages, if any.  Do not reduce the amounts, if any, in your answers because of the negligence, if any, of Violet Victim.

(Brooks’s note: I APOLOGIZE FOR THE SPACING OF THE BLANKS.  NO TABS IN THE SOFTWARE MAKES SPACING A CHALLENGE)

a.  Physical pain and mental anguish sustained in the past                             $__________

b.  Phyiscal pain and mental anguish that, in reasonable probabilty,

Violet Victim will sustain in the future                                                            $__________

c.  Loss of earning capacity sustained in the past                                               $__________

d.  Loss of earning capacity that, in reasonable probability, Violet

Victim will sustain in the future                                                                        $__________

e.  Disfigurement sustained in the past                                                                $__________

f.   Disfigurement that, in resaonable probability, Violet Victim will

sustain in the future                                                                                            $__________

g.  Physical impairment sustained in the past                                                    $__________

h.  Physical impairment that, in reasonable probability, Violet Victim

will sustain in the future                                                                                     $__________

i.  Medical care expenses incurred in the past                                                    $__________

j.  Medical care expenses that, in reasonable probability, Violet

Victim will incur in the future                                                                            $__________

So what do those questions means?  All of them are important.

The first question is essentially asking whether the parties did anything wrong.  If the jury answers “No” for Danny Driver, then Violet Victim loses.

The third question is the question where the jury decides how much money is necessary to compensate Violet for her losses.

The second question answers how the amounts found in question 3 are awarded.  If no percentage of responsibility is placed on Violet Victim, then she is awarded the full amounts found in question 3.  But if she is found to have contributed to the occurrence then the amounts awarded in Question 3 are reduced by her percentage of responsibility.  For example, if she is found 10% responsible, then the amount found in Question 3 is reduced by 10%.  The trick is that if she is found more than 50% responsible, then she loses it all.  Thus, if Violet if 51% responsible in this situation  then she doesn’t recover anything.

In more complicated cases, there may be different and/or additional questions, but the concept is still the same.  The jury answers the questions provided, and then the judge applies the law to those answers to come up the eventual judgment.

 

 

 

Phases of a Personal Injury Trial

As we’ve mentioned previously, one of our goals is to make sure our potential clients and clients know as much as possible about the process so that they can make informed decisions along the way.  We previously discussed the phases of a personal injury claim.  This piece describes the phases of the actual personal injury trial.

1. Pre-trial motions.

Most trial start with some time before the judge to determine whether there are any pre-trial issues that need to be resolved.  Most of those involve trying to limit what evidence the jury hears.  For example, we may try to obtain a ruling that the other side can’t tell the jury about a prior wreck.  Or the other side may try to limit the evidence that we can show surrounding the other party’s conduct.

2. Voir Dire.

This is jury selection.  Jury selection differs from judge to judge.  Generally, the jurors are seated, and the attorneys ask them questions.  The plaintiff’s lawyer generally goes first in the process, followed by the defense lawyer.  During the process, each of the lawyers will usually ask the judge to strike (let go) some of the jurors “for cause.”  This means there is a good reason that the juror shouldn’t serve — the jurors’ answer show a bias to one side, the juror doesn’t meet the statutory qualifications for jury service, etc.  The judge makes a decision about whether a juror is struck for cause  The parties then get an equal number of “peremptory” strikes — an ability to cut a limited number of reasons for discretionary reasons.  The parties can use these however they like with only certain limitations (for instance, you can’t use them to discriminate racially).

3. Opening Statements.

The attorneys for each side begin the trial by telling the jury what the case is about.

4. Evidence.

After opening statements, the parties begin “putting on evidence” that the jury will use to decide the case.  The evidence usually consists of testimony from witnesses and documents or other exhibits that were introduced and admitted.

5. Closing Arguments.

After the evidence is introduced, the sides are allowed to conduct closing arguments, to give the jury the arguments for why that side should win.  Generally, the plaintiff’s lawyer will only use part of his allotted time, saving the rest for a rebuttal after the defendant has done his argument.  So the order of arguments is usually, plaintiff’s opening argument, defendant’s argument, plaintiff’s rebuttal argument.

6. Jury Deliberations.

After the arguments, the jury is instructed to retire to the jury room with the Court’s charge (the questions the jury is asked to decide).  They will deliberate until they have answered all the questions they are required to answer.  In Texas, civil juries are not required to be unanimous unless dealing with punitive damages.  An example of a charge in a simple car wreck case is here.

7.  The Verdict and Judgment.

Once the jury answers all of the questions, they come back into the courtroom, and the judge reads their answers.  The Court and the lawyer then take those answers and turn them into a Final Judgment.  Depending on the complications of the case, the Judgment may be prepared anywhere from a few days after the the trial to a few months after the trial.

Phases of a Personal Injury Lawsuit

We’re big believers in the idea that clients and potential clients need to know as much as possible about their claims and the claim process so that the clients can make informed decisions when deciding how they want to proceed.  One of our repeated conversations is a description of the phases of a personal injury lawsuit.

1.  Filing of the lawsuit.

The attorney files your lawsuit and notifies the other party that they have been sued.  The other party then has between 20 and 30 days to file a response.

2.  Written Discovery.

The parties exchange written requests for information about the case.  These usually include a request for disclosure, interrogatories, and a request for production.  A request for disclosure is a request that the other party provide standard information.  Interrogatories are questions that the parties ask each other.  Requests for production are requests for documents or other items.

This is not too stressful.  While we need your help, we do much of the work to respond to the these items.

You can look at samples of each here:

3.  Deposition.

The parties will take depositions of the other party (and possibly of fact witnesses or experts).  A deposition is sworn testimony.  You will gather with your attorney, the opposing attorney, and the court reporter.  You will be sworn under oath, and the other lawyer will ask you questions about the case, and you will provide answers.  Because you’re sworn under oath, you’re testifying subject to the same penalties of perjury just as if you were testifying at the court house in front of a judge or jury.  The court reporter will also prepare the lawyer’s questions and your answers into a booklet that may be read to the judge or jury and considered by them as evidence.  In some instances, the other party may videotape your deposition and play the deposition for the judge or jury.

This stage is hard and stressful, and that’s why it’s so important to properly prepare.  You should meet with your attorney before the deposition, and the attorney should go over the process with you.  The attorney should also go over your answers to discovery and your medical records to help you be familiar with those items.

4. Mediation.

In Travis County, almost all cases are required to go through mediation, a settlement conference.  The parties gather with a mediator, a neutral third party, who tries to help the parties resolve the case.

5. Trial.

The last phase of the case is the trial.  There are several phases of the trial, and we’ll have a post about those phases as well.

Auto Accident & Workplace Injuries: Herniated Discs

We have seen a rash of clients who have experienced herniated discs as a result of an auto accident.  As a result, I thought I’d take this opportunity to let you know a little more about the injuries.

WHAT IS A HERNIATED DISC?

As you may remember from high school science, our spinal cord goes down our spine protected by our vertebrae, the bones that make up our spine.

In between each bone is a disc, a small, jelly-like substance that buffers the vertebrae.

Unfortunately, in many accidents, the disc is damaged, and the disk material leaks out of its space.  This can cause a number of problems.  The disk material itself may impinge (or squeeze) the nerve, causing significant pain.

Additionally, the center of the disc contains material (nucleus pulposus) that may also leak.  These chemicals may themselves irritate the spinal nerves and cause pain.

SYMPTOMS OF HERNIATED DISC

A herniated disc that affects a nerve is often quite painful.  It may also be accompanied by radiating pain, pain that travels down your back or even into your legs.  Depending on which vertebrae has the problem, you may also get tingling in your fingers, hands or feet.  Again, depending on the location of the injury, you may experience weakness and even bladder issues.

If you have these symptoms, it’s important to seek treatment.  A herniated disc is a serious injury.

TREATMENT

Many physicians will start with a conservative course of treatment, which may include physical therapy or strengthening exercises.

If the conservative care doesn’t help, then your physician may suggest the use of steroid injections.  While steroid injections don’t “fix” the problem, they may help with pain relief.  Some of our clients get significant relief from the use of injections, and others get relief that only lasts a day or two.

If conservative treatment and steroid injections don’t provide significant relief, then many patients and clients require surgery.

 

Perlmutter & Schuelke, PLLC maintains offices in Austin, Texas. However, our attorneys and lawyers represent clients throughout the state of Texas, including Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, Forth Worth, El Paso, New Braunfels, San Marcos, Kyle, Buda, Round Rock, Georgetown, Lockhart, Bastrop, Elgin, Manor, Brenham, Cedar Park, Burnet, Marble Falls, Temple and Killeen. By Brooks Schuelke


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