Do Self-Driving Cars Need Driver’s Ed?

I’ve been following the stories of self-driving cars.  As a personal injury lawyer who sees the devastation of car wrecks, I’m interested in technology that can help my clients be more safe.  On the other hand, knowing all the calculations that go into safe driving — watching for other cars, pedestrians, bicyclists, animals, and other risks — I’ve wondered how technology would be able to handle all of those risks.

Well, it looks like we might still have a ways to go.  Google and other companies have been testing nearly 50 self-driving cars around California.  Reports earlier this week confirmed that, since September, the self-driving cars had been involved in four accidents.  While that might not sound like a lot, if four out of every 50 cars on the roads were involved in wrecks during that same period, it would be catastrophic.

The companies aren’t releasing many details of the wrecks, but reports indicate that two of the wrecks occurred while the cars were in self-driving mode and two occurred while the drivers controlled the cars.

We’ll see how this technology develops going forward.

Posted on: May 12, 2015 | Tagged

What Should I Do After An Injury?

The most important thing you can do after your injury is to get the medical care that you need.  This is important on two grounds.  First, it’s obviously important for your health.  Going to the doctor as soon as possible gives the doctor an opportunity to either provide treatment or to send you to a specialist.   Going to the doctor and following the advice of your doctors is probably the most important thing to do to get better.

Second, going to the doctor(s) and following your doctors’ advice is important for your personal injury claim.  For a lot of insurance companies, your claim will be penalized if you don’t get to the doctor early, have a gap in treatment (fairly long time periods between doctors’ appointments), or you don’t follow your doctors’ advice.

The next thing you should do for your claim is to talk to a personal injury lawyer early.   There are several things that we can help you with early in the process that can affect the value of your claim.   If you wait until later to hire a personal injury lawyer, you’re potentially missing out on several steps that will likely affect the value of your case.

 

Posted on: November 24, 2014 |

Head Injuries and Concussions — From Players’ Perspective

If you know me, you know I’m a huge University of Texas sports fan.  Because of that, I’m a huge fan of the Longhorn Network.  Usually, the stories just relate to my sports passion, but in light of David Ash’s retirement from football due to his repeated concussions, the LHN ran a great piece that talked with three former UT players about their battles with concussions.

Watching it, one thing that stood out to me was something that we see in our practice (and which the science backs up), and that is, once you have had a concussion (or multiple concussions), it takes a smaller impact to re-injure the brain.  Additionally, with a history of concussions, the symptoms appear to get worse.

If you have any interest in head injuries, concussions or sports, I highly recommend the story below.

Leading Causes of Traumatic Brain Injury

TBIStats_Causes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We represent a number of clients who have brain injuries, and I received this infographic the other day describing the causes of traumatic brain injuries.  I thought it was brilliant, and I wanted to share it here.

 

I fell in a parking lot because of broken pavement/sidewalk. Can I sue?

This question was posed to me recently, and the short answer is “yes.”

This is called a premises liability case.  In Texas, a customer can prevail in a premises liability case against a business if the customer can prove several things: (1) that the condition (here the broken pavement or sidewalk) posed an unreasonable risk of harm; (2) the business owner knew or reasonably should have known of the danger; (3) the business failed to use reasonable care to make the condition safe; and (4) the business failed to use reasonable care to warn the customer about the condition.

While these questions may seem simple, there are a lot of difficult issues hidden inside of them.  For instance, almost all premises cases have disputes about whether the condition was unreasonably dangerous.  This often requires expert witnesses who can talk about building codes or other rules and regulations that might apply and why failing to comply with those regulations is dangerous.

Additionally, when proving whether the business owner knew or should have known of the danger, arguments arise over how long the condition had been present.  In this type of case, where broken pavement or sidewalk is likely to occur slowly over time, the issue might not be important.  But if you’re suing a business over a spilled drink on a floor or something similar, then you have to prove how long the drink had been on the floor.  As you might imagine, that can be difficult.

There are other similar difficult issues that make this a much more complicated question than it might normally seem.  That’s why it’s so important to have a competent lawyer on your side when you’re hurt in these situations.

 

 

Posted on: July 24, 2014 |

Brett Favre’s Admissions Shed Light On Traumatic Brain Injuries

In an interview this week, retired NFL quarterback (and all around tough guy) Brett Favre discussed memory loss issues he’s been having since retirement.  Favre attributes these issues to potential brain injuries he suffered as a player.

Favre isn’t alone in these types of symptoms.  We’ve had the pleasure of representing a number of clients who have suffered from brain injuries.  Sadly, memory loss is a popular symptom.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, the concussion issues arising in the NFL and in the military are terrible.  But they may be the best thing to happen to traumatic brain injury patients.  These stories have put a light on the issues of concussions and brain injuries, and they’re also sparking research that might help my clients and others as they seek to return to normal lives.

PERSONAL INJURY: Make The Most Of Your Doctor’s Appointments

For whatever reason, people get intimidated when going to doctor’s offices and they forget to tell their doctors about all of their issues, they’re unwilling to ask follow-up questions, or they’re flustered and forget what the doctor says.  This is a threat to your health, but if you’re a personal injury victim, it also has a big affect on the value of your case.

Here are some tips to help avoid these problems.

• Identify your symptoms. If you’re feeling ill, spend some time documenting the problem in specific terms: what hurts, how much, how long you’ve felt sick, anything that might have contributed to it, and so forth. This will help your doctor make a diagnosis more efficiently.

• Bring your medical history. On your smartphone, or just a piece of paper, keep track of such health-related items as previous illnesses, vaccinations, accidents, and allergies, as well as your family’s medical history as far back as you can go. All of this gives doctors a better context for determining your condition.

• List medications. List all the medicines, vitamins, and supplements you take on a regular basis. Your doctor will need the information in case any of them might be causing unexpected side effects, and to avoid interactions if he or she prescribes any new medications for your condition.

• Prepare questions. Don’t rely on your memory alone. Write down questions as they occur to you before the appointment so you don’t forget any relevant details while talking with your doctor.

• Take notes. Again, you’re better off writing down what your doctor says so nothing slips your mind later. Ask for a printed list of instructions to ensure you’re interpreting his or her advice correctly.

 

Brain Injury Basics: What Is Cognitive Rehab?

Cognitive problems are the most common lingering symptoms of those who have made a good recovery from a traumatic brain injury.  Fortunately, cognitive rehabilitation can at least help reduce some of these problems.

Cognitive rehabilitation is training for the brain and for the victim of a brain injury.  Depending on the extent of your brain injury, cognitive rehab can help repair your brain’s neurological connections so that you can function at a higher level, or it can train you how to function with your limitations.

Some cognitive rehabilitation processes focus on retraining your entire brain.  In these, you might undergo repeated exercises doing the same thing over and over.  While these are necessarily repetitive, they are designed to reorganize your brain’s “wiring” so that the brain is more functional across a number of different areas.

Some cognitive rehab processes focus only on certain skills that are giving you problems.  For example, if your brain injury causes you problems with drinking out of  cup, you will undergo specific training to help you re-learn how to use a cup.  Alternatively, if it is too difficult to re-learn how to use a cup, you might be trained in alternatives, such as easily using a straw.

Because attention deficit and memory issues are the two most common symptoms of brain injuries, there are a number of different cognitive therapy procedures that can be used to help you improve in these areas.  In a typical situation, you would undergo exercises designed to re-train your brain, as described earlier.  You might also receive training in how to use memory strategies, such as mnemonic training (mnemonic’s are learning/memory aids — such as the old Roy G Biv we all learned to remember that Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo and Violet were the colors of the rainbow). You would receive training to teach you how to create and use these type of memory aids in a number of different areas of your life.   Memory training might also include learning how to use external cues — things that are designed to remind you of other tasks — or learning how to use a “memory notebook” — to journal things you are supposed to remember in the future.

Fortunately, studies have shown that a holistic approach that incorporates a number of different types of cognitive rehab processes can help you improve on your brain function, though most studies show that even with the best cognitive rehabilitation, victims of traumatic brain injuries still show problems.

Unfortunately, cognitive rehabilitation is very expensive.  In a 2009 letter to the United States Congressional Budget Office officials, the president of the Brain Injury Association of America estimated that the average cost of cognitive rehabilitation was $27,000.00.

If you want to learn more about cognitive rehab, additional resources are available:

 

 

Brain Injury Basics: Brain Injuries In Children

Brain injuries are devastating in children.

Today, traumatic brain injuries remain the leading cause of both death in children.

For those children lucky enough to survive, an early brain injury can have life-long consequences.  Brain injuries often affect a child’s ability to learn even years after the injury.   Young victims are particularly vulnerable because most brain development occurs between the ages of 1 and 5.  Even as children get older, studies still suggest that the younger they are at the time of injury, the more serious problems they will face.

And even when a child has a satisfactory or normal IQ levels, emotional problems caused by the head injury set them back.  One study found that 19 of 22 children with  brain injuries showed long-term emotional issues.

These problems have a real economic value.  One study found that only 27 percent of kids who sustained brain injuries were working full-time by the time they reached age 21.

Unfortunately, auto accidents are the leading cause of brain injury-related deaths in children.  Proper use of seat belts and car seats can really help minimize these risks.

Falls still account for most brain injuries in children, including falling down stairs, falling off of playground equipment, and falling out windows.  Parents can help reduce the risk for these types of injuries by child-proofing the house and making sure that playgrounds are protected by twelve inches of soft surface material (such as mulch, gravel,  etc.)

Bicycle accidents also account for thousands of brain injuries per year.  Parents can reduce the risk of bicycle-related brain injuries by teaching their children bicycle safety and making sure that children are properly using bicycle helmets.

 

 

Brain Injury Basics: Causes of Brain Injuries

A common argument that we hear from insurance companies is that our client’s brain injury couldn’t have been caused by the accident because the client’s head didn’t hit anything.  That is a fallacy.    It is true that most head injuries are caused by a trauma to the head.  For example, in a car wreck, the victim’s head may hit the window, the steering wheel or the dash board.  However, there are a number of other common situations that lead to brain injuries where there aren’t any direct blows to the head.  Some of those are listed below.

1.  Forces applied to the brain.   You don’t have to hit your head to apply forces to the brain.  When your head moves rapidly, your brain moves inside your skull and impacts the brain.  These forces, slamming your brain around in your skull, are often hard enough to cause brain injuries.  For example, one study found that in car wrecks of 35 miles per hour, 27% of drivers and 21% of passengers who were wearing seat belts were at high risk of head injury even when their head didn’t contact anything on the interior of the car.

This risk is often made worse because multiple impacts occur.  Studies have repeatedly shown that repeated brain injuries have a cumulative effect on people, and in high impact accidents, there are often multiple injuries.  For example, in a simple rear-end case, upon impact, the head is immediately thrown forward, causing the brain to hit the front of the skull.  And then the head whips back, causing a second impact with the back of the skull.  With more complications, such as impacts with other cars or quick stops, there are additional opportunities for more impacts and more injuries, all occurring without the head ever hitting anything on the interior of the car.

Even hearing the above description, some may discount the non-impact cause of head injuries.  But remind them of shaken-baby syndrome.  Countless children are harmed or even killed from head injuries suffered by shaking — and they all occur without any impact.

2. Blast Injuries.  One legacy of the Iraq war is that we are learning more and more that people around explosions can suffer severe brain injuries without any type of impact on the head.  These same type of injuries are often found in construction-site accidents or in various types of manufacturing plant accidents.

3.  Lack of Oxygen.  Brain injuries are also often caused by anoxia, or lack of oxygen to the brain.  These types of injuries often occur in near-drowning cases, but they also arise in other situations.

4.  Loss of Blood.  An injured person who loses a lot of blood may also develop a brain injury even though the head never impacted anything during the actual accident.

5.  Electrical Injuries.   Many doctors miss this, but any type of electrical injury can potentially cause a brain injury in a person.

Just because you or a loved one doesn’t have an impact on your head, don’t dismiss the possibility of a brain injury.  Recognizing the brain injury and getting prompt treatment can make a difference in your outcome.

Perlmutter & Schuelke, LLP 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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