When the Government Doesn’t Respond to Assist Injured Veterans, Private Enterprise Steps in

Someone needs to take responsibility for the brave souls who fought for our country. If not government, then the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund.

The government has been saying for some time now that they do not have enough funds to treat the enormous number of psychologically and physically damaged troops returning home from Afghanistan and Iraq. To throw their hands up in the air and cry defeat would be inexcusable. Sourcing funds to help veterans, the government partnered with the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund (Fund), an entrepreneurial and dynamic group busy raising $100 million to erect clinics on military bases.

The purpose of the new buildings is to treat and research traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder, the main and extremely devastating results of improvised explosive devices (IEDs). The Fund is blessed with the ability to bypass government bureaucracy when dealing with construction projects, and is able and willing to fund medical advances to help returning vets.

A brainchild of 9/11, the Fund has been credited with building a burn-victim and amputee rehabilitation center in San Antonio, Texas and a stellar brain injury center in Bethesda, Md. Both facilities are considered to be among the nation’s top medical facilities that specialize in treating injured troops. They offer very targeted and specific treatment, and provide the opportunity for all doctors treating a patient to meet with them at once, so they are all on the same song sheet, treatment wise.

Vets treated in these facilities are not rushed from one doctor to the next. They do not bounce around to different physicians, and unlike other hospitals, there are a number of other alternative treatments for patients. For instance, the injured may be helped by service dogs or art therapy.

The plan is to build seven to ten more clinics at the largest military bases in the U.S., based on the unique hub and spoke model. Military officials hope to streamline treatments by sending patient information up to the research section and subsequently making use of treatment modalities suggested, based on the initial information.

Already underway is a clinic in Virginia at Fort Belvoir and in North Carolina at Camp Lejeune. More facilities are in the works for Fort Bliss, Texas; Fort Carson, Colorado; Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Fort Hood, Texas; and Joint Base Lewis McChord, Washington. Although the clinics are built and funded by private enterprise, once they have been completed, the base takes over control, operating the clinic, staffing it, and making sure their services are second to none. Things are looking a great deal brighter from veterans returning home from deployment overseas, and it’s about time.  With any luck, these models and research will lead to successes that can be extended to the private sector to help private individuals too.

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

Auto Accidents: Texting While Driving Is In The News

If you read this blog, you know one of my pet peeves/big topics is texting while driving.

Yesterday, two texting while driving stories caught my eye.  On the national scene, Yahoo news ran a story about new efforts to enforce texting while driving bans.  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has issued several grants to help agencies enforce bans.  The grants will help pay for a wide-range of activities from ad campaigns to “roving patrols” of cars to watch for people texting while driving. Some states have already had luck with officers in unmarked vehicles driving around to spot those texting while driving.

On the same day, Austin station KXAN ran a story about the city of Austin’s enforcement of its texting while driving ban.  Since Austin banned texting while driving, officers have written more than 500 tickets.  About half of the tickets were to drivers in their 20s, and 30 percent to drivers in their 30s.  Surprising to me, only 2 tickets were to drivers younger than 18.

You can watch the KXAN story below:

Not only teens are texting and driving





Don’t Be Penny Wise – Pound Foolish — Why You Need An Injury Attorney

Yesterday’s Austin American Statesman had a story about the government’s efforts to condemn (purchase) land on the US-Mexico border for construction of the border wall.  It follows the story of Teofilo Flores, who accepted the government’s $1,650 offer for a slice of his backyard.  That didn’t seem like a bad deal until Mr. Flores learned that a neighbor had received 40 times that amount for a similar piece of property and that another nearby farmer had received almost $1 million in exchange for his cooperation.

I won’t bore you with the details of the story, but the general theme was that those who retained attorneys to represent them in the negotiations received significantly more in the process than those without attorneys.  Of interest to me – a trial lawyer – those who asked for a jury to decide their cases received settlement checks that were on average 1,200 percent more than the original offers.

It immediately struck me that this is virtually identical to what happens in injury cases.  People think they’re saving themselves money by not hiring a lawyer to pursue their claims.  But that’s a mistake.  Even insurance company studies prove that injured persons who retain lawyers recover more than those who are not represented.

And there are good reasons for that.  People don’t know the ins and outs of making a claim, what the fair value of a claim might be, and how to best present the claim.  Even if lay people study up on those issues, they still don’t have the hammer necessary to force insurance companies to take them seriously.  In our cases, if the insurance company isn’t playing fair, we’ll file a lawsuit and take it to trial, if necessary.  That’s the biggest bargaining chip we have.

But insurance companies know that unrepresented people don’t know the process, don’t know the fair value of the claim, and know that if they don’t treat an unrepresented person fairly, there’s not a lot that person can do if the person isn’t willing to hire a lawyer.  And because insurance companies know this, you can rest assured that they’ll take advantage of this.

If you or a loved one is injured, don’t try to resolve the claim yourself.  At least talk to a lawyer first.  You don’t want to find yourself in poor Mr. Flores’s shoes, settling your case and only learning later that you’ve been taken advantage of.

Medical Professionals Now Looking At Concussions

It seems to have taken a number of highly-publicized professional athletes to die by their own hand before people started more seriously looking at the long-term issues of traumatic brain injury.

Athletes with traumatic brain injury who are still alive may well be wishing they had known more about the cumulative effect of concussions during their days playing their sport of choice – be that hockey, football, soccer or volleyball. Many professional athletes now estimate that they have sustained eight or more known concussions throughout the course of their career. While that seems like a small number, the brain doesn’t count. Traumatic brain injury seriously affects those who suffer from its effects. Many parents wonder if they should sign their children up for school sports like football, when concussions are a common occurrence.

It has only been very recently that more educational institutions have started to pay attention to what concussions mean in the long-term for its athletes. Since the spate of hockey deaths over the last few years, many state colleges have begun to implement programs specifically focusing on traumatic brain injury. With some luck, perhaps a recent study underway in Nebraska will help others across the nation treat concussions.

The CDC recently released evidence that concussions for kids and adolescents have jumped sixty percent in the last decade. That number has frightened doctors into looking more closely into how brain injuries happen and what can be done to help victims. One doctor in particular, at the University of Nebraska, wanted to drive a project looking for more answers about traumatic brain injury.

The Center for Brain, Biology and Behavior was launched two years ago, by Dr. Dennis Molfese, whose main goal is to try and determine what people were like “before” they sustained a head injury. Often that vital piece of information is missing after the fact. Identifying the missing pieces of the puzzle, Molfese partnered with the Ivy League and the Big 10 conference to closely examine the brain, before and after concussion, with one burning question in mind: “Did people really recover from concussions and if so, to what extent?”

The initial research begins with baseline tests on the brains of athletes at the start of their season. The baseline is then used as a benchmark to compare with subsequent tests taken later, after the participant has sustained a concussion. The doctor hopes to determine how the brain has changed, how that affects behavior and how do they recover (or do they) over the long-term.

Although football seems to be the sport in the spotlight most often, the risk of concussion exists in many other sports. Perhaps this type of research may benefit all players in sports where the risk of brain injury is a very real one, every time they play.

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

Top 10 Insurance Myths

Yesterday, an attorney friend bought me lunch in exchange for me giving him some advice about making a claim after he and family members were rear-ended (likely by someone on a cell phone).  One of the things he was disappointed about was that the insurance company wasn’t taking responsibility and was treating his family unfairly.

I had to warn him that he wasn’t special — that’s par for the course.

And it seems like a good opportunity to break out the Top 10 Insurance Myths from our friends over at Texas Watch, one of the only grassroots groups that is looking out for the interests of consumers over at the legislature.  Here are their myths:

1.  You’re Covered.

2.  Insurance Companies Always Pay Claims Fully & Promptly.

3.  Texas Just Needs More Insurance Companies.

4.  Your Insurance Company Is Loyal To You.

5.  Bad Weather Means Insurance Rates Must Rise.

6. Mandatory Arbitration Helps Policyholders.

7.  Protecting Policyholder Rights Raises Rates.

8. Giving Insurance Companies What They Want Is Good For Consumers.

9.  Insurance Companies Are People Too.

10.  Insurance Shopping Is Easy.

To read the full article and commentary click on the link here.


Personal Injury — Trauma Activation Fees Revisited

A couple of months ago, I wrote about the increasing issue we’re seeing with “trauma activation fees” being charged by local hospitals, most notably Brackenridge.

Yesterday, the Austin American Statesman ran a front page investigatory story on these fees.

These fees are what the hospitals are adding to bills just in case you need a trauma team — even when you may not.

The story centered on the plight of Mark Mitchell, who was injured in a bike accident. Mr. Mitchell briefly blacked out after the wreck and had some bleeding in his elbow.  He reluctantly agreed to let the EMS technicians take him to Brackenridge.  He now wishes he had not.  Despite receiving minimal care in the ER, he received a bill for over $20,000,  with over $14,000 of that being a “trauma activation fee.”

Poor Mr. Mitchell is being charged this fee even though the EMS technicians who treated him and an independent auditing firm felt that he didn’t meet any of the criteria to be considered a trauma patient.

And still Seton refuses to reduce his bill.

And that’s the problem.  In few, if any, other industries do you get get a service and then you are later told what you are going to be charged. So Mr. Mitchell is stuck without many good options — the same problem that many of our clients experience.

Schuelke Law 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

Law Firm Website by CLM Grow