New Study Explains Why Rest Is Key Following A Brain Injury

brainWhen my son suffered a concussion two years ago, his doctor told him the key was rest.  For this then 11 year old, that meant laying down, with no reading, no television, and no video games.  Just rest.

Rest has long been thought to help following a brain injury, but recently, a new study came out explaining why that was the right advice.

The study, which examined trauma in the brains of mice, found that when there is single, mild incident, the mice lose 10-15 percent of their neuronal connections in the brain, but there was no accompanying cell death.  When the mice rested for three days, almost all of the connections came back, healing the brain.

However, the study found that without rest, when additional events occur, the neuronal connections don’t heal and can become permanent.  Thus, the prescribed rest is critical to offer the brain an opportunity for any mild injuries to heal.

One issue with the study is that it is only based on very mild injuries.  In more severe cases, a one-time incident can cause cell death and have long-term consequences even if the victim tries to take the rest needed or prescribed.

If you or a loved one has suffered a brain injury as a result the conduct of someone else, please call us at (512)476-4944 so we can help you.

 

 

 

“Independent” Medical Exams Going Rogue

A constant problem that we face in cases are doctors who perform “independent” medical exams.  In many cases, insurance companies hire doctors to review our clients’ medical records or to have a one-time exam of our clients and then write a report on how bad our clients are hurt and/or whether our clients’ injuries are related to the wreck or other event that is the basis of the lawsuit.

Oftentimes, these doctors make hundreds of thousands of dollars per year doing these exams.  It’s no surprise then when the reports always come back supporting whatever the insurance company or the insurance company lawyer wanted the report to say.

I’ve written about this problem before, including:

Now, I’ve been alerted to a disturbing blog post by a Michigan personal injury lawyer, Steven Gurstein, describing his experience with an “independent” medical exam.  In the post, entitled “Sticks and Stone and….attorney disbarment. Will the First Amendment lose out when IME doctor files grievance to conceal her testimony in injury cases from the public”, Mr. Gurstein outlines his issues with Dr. Rosalind Griffin, who performed an exam on one of his clients.

I can find a number of posts about abusive medical exams on lawyers’ blogs, but Mr. Gurstein’s stands out for a couple of reasons.

Mr. Gurstein had his client’s exam video-taped, and he went to great lengths to explain in his blog post many of the alleged inconsistencies between what happened in the exam and what the doctor reported.  It’s fascinating to read and is a good primer on the types of problems that you can see in these exams.  I would recommend it for anyone interested in the issue or anyone who might be undergoing an exam.

Dr. Rosalind Griffin was apparently upset with Mr. Gurstein, and Dr. Griffin reportedly filed a grievance against Mr. Gurstein.  That is shocking.  I don’t know the intricacies of Michigan ethics law, and I don’t even know the substance of any allegation (I didn’t read the complaint that Mr. Gurstein linked), but if that happened here in Texas, given what is reported, I would think it was a clear abuse of the process.  It’s the type of thing that I would expect to be summarily dismissed by the bar here.

Even more shocking is that Dr. Rosalind Griffin is apparently on the Attorney Discipline Board that might hear Mr. Gurstein’s case.  How does that happen?  In Texas, we do allow non-lawyers to serve on our grievance hearings, but I can’t imagine that anyone who is as intimately involved in the litigation process as Dr. Rosalind Griffin seems to be, should be on the committee.

I don’t know what will happen to Mr. Gurstein, but if what he’s reporting is truthful, it seems like this is the type of information that we want the public to see, and not something that should be hidden.

Warren Buffett On Car Wrecks: If cars are better, and they clearly are, drivers must be worse

Damaged Car Involved In Traffic Accident

Damaged Car Involved In Traffic Accident

Safety experts at the National Safety Council, and insurance companies such as Allstate and Geico, were surprised by the 14 percent increase in fatal auto accidents during the first half of 2015.Geico is part of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway group. Figures for the second half haven’t yet been compiled.

Insurers say drivers could be facing a period of rising premiums. Some companies are reacting to the statistics with rate increases and others are expected to follow.

What caused the accidents?

Buffett’s statement about drivers being worse is not quite on target, though driving longer hours on trips and on crowded roads can be stressful.

* Roadways were more dangerous in 2015 as travel increased to a record 1.54 trillion miles through June, according to the Federal Highway Administration. The average number of miles individual Americans drove remained at the same level as in 2007, but there were more people driving.

* Low gasoline prices, the lowest since 2010, encouraged more travel.

* The low unemployment rate of 5.1 percent meant people could afford to take more trips, according to the American Automobile Association. Allstate president Matt Winter told analysts that increased vehicle complexity could be a factor, but it’s typical for people to drive more and have more accidents as the economy rebounds from a recession.

What you can do?

Traditional cautions are even more important on crowded roads: Take it easy and don’t be aggressive. Allow more time to reach your destination. Drive defensively. Be ready for another driver to make a mistake.

 

Insurance Recorded Statement: Beware This Seemingly Innocent Question

 

 

“If we get some of your bills, do we have permission to pay your medical providers directly?”

That’s a question that I’ve started seeing when GEICO takes recorded statements of some of my clients (and I can only assume that other insurance companies will follow behind).  It seems innocuous.  The client says, “yes.”  Of course, that would be great.

It’s terrible.

Agreeing to this simple request can really hurt your accident claim.  Why?

Medical expenses are funny.  For most medical providers, there are at least two numbers for medical bills.  First, there is the “rack rate” — the full price rate that the medical providers try to charge those without insurance.  Second, there is the “insurance rate” — the contractual rate that the medical provider and health insurance companies agree is a proper charge for a particular service.  (And in reality, these insurance rates can be different for every different health insurance company, Medicare, Medicaid, and so on.)

Which rate is charged, has an impact on your case.

By offering to pay the bill directly, GEICO and other carriers are trying to get permission to go to your medical providers and try to cut your case out from under you.  They’ve paid something they’re going to have to pay anyway, often at a lower rate than you would be able to recover from them, and in the process, they’re decreasing the value of your claim while decreasing their risk.  It’s all good to them.

It’s also taking money out of your pocket.  If hospital A has a $10,000 bill but is willing to accept $7,500 (and I’m making these numbers up), then if GEICO pays the hospital directly, it saves itself $2,500.  However, if the lawsuit goes forward and GEICO has to pay you, the client, the $10,000 and then you pay the hospital the $7,500, then that $2,500 savings goes to you and not the hospital.

So agreeing to this seemingly innocent request is costing you money!

There are a number of ways that an insurance company can use a recorded statement to its advantage.  While this is a relatively new tactic, it’s not the only tactic.  We always tell our clients that they shouldn’t agree to a recorded statement without having a lawyer present to help protect the clients’ rights.

If you or a loved one has been in a car wreck and have been contacted about a recorded statement, please call us at (512)476-4944 and let us help you before that statement occurs.

 

 

Another Fatal Austin Wrong Way Driving Wreck

Yesterday, Austin saw yet another fatal wreck caused by a driver going the wrong way on one of our highways.  In this round, driver John McClintock was arrested for driving the wrong way on Mopac, where he is alleged to have hit and killed Domonick Turner.

Sadly, this type of thing happens way too frequently. It seems like this should be a scenario that never plays out.  But over the years, Austin has seen a number of wrecks where this happens.   While I’ve written on these types of wrecks for years, the frequency really hit home when my wife called me one morning telling me that she was shaken up and pulled off the road because a driver crossed the median of IH 35 and almost hit her head on.

But that was an unusual situation.  Yesterday’s wreck had the two main hallmarks of most wrong  way crashes:  (1) alcohol is involved; and (2) the wreck happened in the wee hours of the day.

Sadly, these wrecks are almost always serious because of the nature of head on collisions and the fact that there is almost nothing a victim can do to avoid the wrecks.

However, there are some actions that road designers can take to make these types of wrecks less likely to occur.  I’ve written extensively about these potential solutions, and you can find those articles by searching this site.

Posted on: November 12, 2015 | Tagged

Good Brain Injury Related News From The University of Texas

brainYesterday, Admiral William McRaven, the Chancellor of the University of Texas System, made several announcements about his future plans for the system.

Recognizing the increase in brain injuries and diseases, Admiral McRaven proposed an “unprecedented investment” to have the University of Texas academic and health campuses work together on research and initiatives to improve brain health.  Admiral McRaven compared his envisioned level cooperation to that of the Manhattan Project, when researchers all over the country came together to collaborate and create the atomic bomb during World War II.

While this initiative isn’t on the immediate horizon, it’s an exciting prospect to think about the University that I love playing a big part in helping so many of my clients.

Posted on: November 6, 2015 | Tagged

I Am Humbled

In the summer of 2012, I visited the West African countries of Liberia and Guinea to investigate a project involving a local school and health clinic.  I came back thinking that I felt more humbled than I would probably ever feel.

I was wrong.

For the past twelve days, my family has hosted one of the leaders from Liberia as he is in the US to work on those projects.  And never have I been more humbled or even embarrassed than this experience.

How do you comfortably take someone to HEB when they come from a country where food is scarce?  How do you comfortably explain to someone about watering the lawn when they come from a country where the lack of clean water kills kids daily?  I could go on and on.

Needless to say, it has been an eye-opening experience for my family.  While we hope to continue our relationship with our visitor, I also hope to look at things through a new eye so that I remember to be grateful for all that we have.

Posted on: October 29, 2015 | Tagged

Selfies Killing More People Than Sharks

Selfie stickSelfie danger is on the rise.

In mid-September, a Japanese tourist at the Taj Mahal was taking a picture of himself and fell down stairs, leading to a fatal brain injury.  In early September, a  Houston teenager was killed taking a selfie with a gun.  In August, a man was gored while trying to take a selfie during a Spanish bull run.

The website Mashable was so intrigued by the rise that they tried to compare selfie deaths to shark-related deaths.  To their surprise, so far in 2015, more people have died from selfie-related incidents (12) than from shark attacks (8).  This difference is actually likely to be bigger since selfie deaths aren’t easily tracked.

While the stories sound a little humorous, this is a serious problem.  Many places are banning selfie sticks (including the Texas State Fair, for those of you planning on venturing up there), Waterton Canyon park in Colorado has closed because people can’t stop taking selfies with bears, and the Russian interior ministry is even launching a campaign to encourage safer selfie practices.

Instead of taking a selfie, making the next time you need a picture, do it the old fashioned way — ask for help from someone around.

 

 

Posted on: September 25, 2015 | Tagged

Energy Drinks Linked To Brain Injuries

brainA new University of Toronto study found that teenagers who drink heavily caffeinated energy drinks are more prone to traumatic brain injuries.

In the firm, I see brain injuries in all sorts of situations — car wrecks, bicycle accidents, falls, etc.  But for teenagers, the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries is sports.  The rate of brain injuries in teens has been on a rise (in part, I think, because of better diagnoses).

The new study sheds some additional light on the problem.  The researchers interviewed 10,000 people from ages 11-20 and asked a series of questions, including questions about usage of energy drinks and their incidents of brain injuries.  The results were startling.

Those kids who had consumed one energy drink in the last year were twice as likely to have suffered a brain injury and non-drinkers, and those kids who consumed five or more energy drinks in the last week were nearly seven times more likely to have sustained a brain injury.

These results don’t necessarily show that the use of energy drinks makes a person more likely to suffer a brain injury from an event.  But it’s possible.  The high caffeine levels affect the brain in ways that we don’t know, and the caffeine levels could make the brain more susceptible to injury.  More study is needed there.

Alternatively, there is some thought that there is a correlation between the use of energy drinks and high risk behavior.  Maybe people who drink energy drinks engage in activities that are more dangerous than what a typical kid experiences.

Finally, there is the possibility that the use of energy drinks is a coping mechanism to deal with the after-effects of brain injuries.  Many kids with brain injuries describe themselves as being tired or in a fog.  Perhaps the usage of energy drinks is a way to fight off those symptoms.

There is still a lot to learn on these topics, but there is enough concern that I think we should discourage the use of these energy drinks by kids until we know that they’re safe.

Another Wrong Way Crash In Austin

Early this morning (August 19th), Austin endured another wrong way crash, a wreck where a driver is driving the wrong way on a highway.  Details are not out yet, but one man was killed and two women were critically injured following a head-on collision on I35 southbound near Airport Boulevard.

When a wreck like this happens, you may ask how it’s possible to be driving the wrong way on a highway.  But the unfortunate reality is that these wrong-way wrecks happen far too frequently.

For example, earlier this month, teens headed to Austin were killed in a wrong way crash on I30 in Greenville, near Dallas.

In June, an Austin woman was killed in a wrong way wreck on Ben White Boulevard.

In May, two people were killed in a wrong way wreck on Parmer Lane.

In fact, this is a subject that I’ve studied and written about frequently.  Some of my posts on wrong way crashes include:

Most of these wrong way crashes share two characteristics.  First, most occur at night.  Second, most involve alcohol or drug use.

There are several things that can be done to try and minimize the risks of these wrecks, especially on highways.

Better entrance ramp designs.  A core issue in these wrecks are confusing on-ramps and off-ramps.  For example, here in Austin, Ben White Boulevard is a common site of wrong-way wrecks.  That is probably not surprising given that the on-ramps near Ben White and Lamar Boulevard are some of the most confusing in the city.  Making on-ramps and off-ramps simple help reduce these wrecks.

Lowering traffic signs.  The data shows that “wrong way” signs are more effective when they are at the driver’s line of sight.  These signs should be lowered more than typical street signs.

If you want to learn more about wrong-way wrecks, the Texas Transportation Institute has an interesting report on wrong way driving.

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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