Brain Injury Basics — New Series

Over the years, we’ve been fortunate to help a number of clients who have suffered brain injuries in various types of accidents.  After speaking to some recent clients, one of their biggest frustrations is that it’s difficult to find easy to understand information about brain injuries, brain injury treatment, and brain injury prognosis.  As a result, we’ve spent a good amount of time trying to help them find accurate, easy-to-understand information.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be writing a series of blog posts that try to give some basic information.

Keep in mind, this isn’t medical advice, and patients with brain injuries, more than anyone else, should get the help they need as quick as they can.  But I maintain that people who know more about their condition and their case, make better decisions and get better results.

I also think the information is particularly important in head injury cases.  Sometimes doctors are slow to diagnose head injuries because the doctors don’t know you well enough to compare your condition after the wreck to your condition before the wreck.  Therefore, it’s important for you, your friends and family members to know the symptoms of head injuries and potential causes of head injuries to help with the diagnosis process.

Toddler run over by truck does not survive

When an emergency call goes out for help involving a child, the crews know it will be a tough call.

This story had one of the worst endings possible, the death of a toddler. A three-year-old boy was run over by a truck backing up through a parking lot. For some reason, like most small children do, the boy bolted away from his mother and ran off. A short time later, a truck ran him over. Although the boy was only pinned under the truck for a short period of time, it was enough for him to sustain life-threatening injuries. He died at the hospital later that day.

Stories like this bring home the very real safety issues that we all need to be concerned about. Small children simply do not understand why they can’t run free in places like parking lots, and drivers in those lots, and other locations need to be on constant alert to avoid accidents like this one. Drivers need to be even more cautious during holiday seasons, as there are far too many distractions for everyone.

Although many people condemn the use of child leashes as being inhumane and humiliating, a restraint such as that would have saved this boy’s life. Perhaps the most important thing to consider in keeping a child safe is not what looks odd or punitive, but what will keep them alive when they are out in dangerous situations, even if they are with a parent.

Being with his mother in the parking lot did not help this three-year-old, and once he had broken free from his mother, there was no way she could catch up to him before the accident. It’s a devastating blow to watch a child get run over, not only for the parents, but for the driver that struck the boy.

In this instance, there will be more questions to answer before the police get a clear picture of how this misfortune happened. For instance, was the driver under the influence of drugs or alcohol? Was the driver texting while driving? Or otherwise distracted and not paying attention? Not to mention the biggest question of why was the truck driving backwards through a crowded parking lot? It is not clear whether charges will be laid, but should law enforcement discover the truck driver could have avoided the accident, but for a negligent action, there may be charges pending.

In a wrongful death case such as this, parents may wish to speak with an Austin injury lawyer. They need to know what their rights are and how to move forward with a lawsuit seeking compensation for the sudden death of their loved one. Avoid dealing directly with insurance companies, as their main goal is to settle quickly and cheaply. They do not consider the agony of the parents. They are more interested in their fiscal bottom line. Take any questions about personal injury accidents to an Austin injury lawyer, particularly if you want justice.

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

Seven Ton Postal Truck Crushes Cyclist

This gruesome case demonstrates that bicycles and large trucks do not mix.

“This is a horrific case. A seven-ton U.S. Postal Service truck crushed a woman on a bicycle and then left the scene of the accident,” said Brooks Schuelke, an Austin personal injury lawyer with Perlmutter & Schuelke, L.L.P. “As the facts unfolded, it turned out the man driving the truck hadno idea he had hit anyone.”

The victim in this case was a former State Supreme Court special referee, and she was out biking with her husband one day in Manhattan, when she fell under the right rear tire of the postal vehicle. She was hit as she pedaled through a small gap between a moving truck and the parked postal truck. The driver, a 64-year-old man, indicated to police his vehicle bumped and rocked all the time, due to the nature of the streets in the city. He had not been aware of anything unusual that day and finished his run, returning to headquarters later, where he learned there had been an accident.

He did not connect the dots for some time. “However, roughly two hours later, in the middle of another postal run, the trucker began to have a sinking feeling he might has been the man who hit the cyclist. When he asked his supervisor for more details of the accident, he advised him he thought it was his truck that hit her,” Schuelke explained.

This case made it to trial and the prosecution wanted to know why the worker had waited two hours or more to talk to his supervisor. They did not accept his explanation that he did not feel anything out of the ordinary that day, when running over a human on a bike would certainly engender more than just a mere bump. Facing up to seven years in jail, if convicted, the man stuck to his story, and the jury believed him.

Leaving the scene of an accident is more common than people think. Some leave as a result of being under the influence of something. Some leave because they are scared and have no driver’s license or a suspended license, and some leave because they are not aware anything happened. Far too often death comes to cyclists on Americas streets. “It’s brutal for the families of those killed in this manner. Many wish to file wrongful death lawsuits, to ensure something like the loss of their loved one does not happen to anyone else,” Schuelke added.

 

Contact Perlmutter & Schuelke PLLC at http://www.civtrial.com or (512) 476-4944.

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.

Car Wrecks: Good News/Bad News On Car Wreck Deaths

Late last week, Austin American Statesman writer Ben Wear had a great story on auto accident fatalities.

The good news: a Texas Department of Transportation report found that traffic fatalities in Texas have decreased by almost 15 percent since 2006.

The bad news: Texas is still significantly more dangerous than the United States as a whole.

There’s also a catch.  The improvement numbers are based on number of deaths per miles driven.  In 2010, Texas saw 3,028 traffic deaths, equating to 1.29 deaths per 100 million miles driven.  In 2006, the death rate was 1.5 deaths per 100 million miles driven.  I haven’t been able to find raw data on the actual number of traffic fatalities in 2006, but given the states’ increased population growth and increasing miles driven, I am guessing that the actual number of deaths were pretty similar for both years.

The other bad news:  There wasn’t a decline in highway deaths 2011.  The number of US highway traffic fatalities decreased for much of the country, but the numbers for Texas stayed flat.

Generally, the number of deaths should be decreasing.  Vehicly safety has improved significantly; people are getting better about wearing seat belts; there is increased awareness about drunk driving and distracted driving.

One reason that Texas may not be improving as much as the rest of the country is the trucking industry.   With I35 being a huge trucking corridor and the increased number of trucks in the South Texas area due to the resurgence of the oil and gas industry in Eagle Ford shale areas, Texas has a disproportionate number of trucks and big rigs on the road, increasing the likelihood of fatal accidents.

If you or a loved one has been injured or killed in a traffic accident, please allow us the opportunity to help by calling (512)476-4944 or submitting a case using the forms on this site.

Austin American Statesman Covers Confusing World Of Hospital Costs

One of the most frustrating issues for our personal injury clients is dealing with hospitals and hospital charges that don’t seem to make any sense.

Yesterday, Austin American Statesman writer Mary Ann Roser had a great story that looks at the mysterious world of emergency room and hospital charges.  She took the time to research the costs of various procedures at different facilities, and her results are stunning.

For example, she found that the cost of treatment for a stroke could range anywhere from $68,188 to $7.990 depending on which hospital provided the care.  Similar disparities existed for all other kinds of treatment.

This generally isn’t a problem for those who have health insurance because the insurance companies have negotiated rates (usually MUCH lower than these rates) with the various hospital systems, but it is a huge problem for those who don’t have insurance.  The uninsured are left to try and negotiate reductions for themselves, and without the leverage of a large health insurance company behind them, most of those negotiations are unsuccessful.

It’s even worse for injury victims.  Hospitals who provide emergency care to injury victims are entitled by law to file a lien against the victim’s recovery in any future personal injury case.  That lien removes what little negotiating power the patient has, and injury victims are often exploited for a large portion of these made up charges.

One of my favorite examples of these abuses is a relatively new “Trauma Activation Fee” that Brackenridge Hospital is trying to add to many patients’ bills.  If you’re unlucky enough to be taken to Brackenridge and they activate a trauma team (regardless of whether you need it), they charge a trauma activation fee ($14,247.50 for a Trauma II charge; I don’t know the charge for Trauma I).  You get charged this fee even though you didn’t request and often when you don’t need it.  And yet, if you’re uninsured, you have little leverage to negotiate it down.

As I wrote earlier this month, the Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) is supposed to help prevent these abusive practices, but we’re still not seeing those results yet.  Often, when I talk to hospital representatives to negotiate bills and inform them of the law, the representatives have never heard of it before.

It is a problem, and I appreciate the Statesman bringing it to light

 

Posted on: July 23, 2012 |

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.

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.

 

Injured? Learn About Your Condition

A constant issue I hear from personal injury clients is that doctors often do a poor job communicating with patients about the patients’ injuries and their course of care.

But with the internet, there are a number of ways for clients to learn about their injuries and treatment themselves.  It is the internet, so some of the information is horrible, but much of it is quite good.

One source that I have found helpful is Up To Date (www.uptodate.com). 

Up To Date is an online medical encyclopedia.  It is written and edited by doctors, updated frequently, and footnoted very well so you can follow up on studies.  It is designed to be used by medical professionals — hospitals, clinics, doctors, etc.  It is set up so that it provides basic information about conditions and then answers many of the most popular clinical questions about conditions.  When you look at the website, you’ll see that it receives good reviews from doctors and medical facilities from all over the world. 

But it also markets to patients.  Up To Date currently has a subscription option where you can have unlimited access to the website for 7 days for $19.95 or 30 days of unlimited access for $44.95.

If you have a condition that you want to learn more about, you might consider paying these fees so that you really understand your condition and your future.

Big Rig Accidents Continue to Occur on Roadways

Despite the desire to reduce the number of 18-wheeler accidents on the highways, it does not seem to be happening.

Unfortunately, even with the latest push to improve big rig safety, there are still far too many devastating accidents taking lives, and often taking them in a grisly fashion. The difficulty is that many passenger vehicles do not seem to understand or appreciate that driving a huge commercial truck is not like driving a smaller car. They are far more difficult to maneuver, do not stop quickly, and cannot see you in certain blind spots.

Most commercial trucks easily weigh more than 80,000 pounds. On the other hand, passenger vehicles may weigh about 3,000 pounds. It does not take too much imagination to realize that 80,000 pounds slamming into 3,000 pounds means a disaster, often one in which someone loses their life. Their enormous weight is why it takes them longer to stop. The forward momentum of that much weigh just keeps going until the brakes kick in.

Another factor that most do not think about is that many truckers are hauling hazardous cargo such as flammable material, making how they drive much more of a safety issue. A truck loaded with gas or other highly flammable materials stands a good chance of exploding if it is involved in an accident. This may mean death in a fire or severe burns and respiratory issues.

But these wrecks are not accidents. Most are caused by decisions made months or years earlier by trucking companies trying to maximize profits. The pressure of an employer breathing down their necks is often another reason why truckers get into accidents. The truth is that many truckers drive for too long, are tired, distracted and not fully alert and aware. So they may drift off behind the wheel.

Truckers are often expected to do their deliveries as fast as they can to make the company money, skip proper maintenance checks to make their trips quicker and falsify log books to show they had the requisite number of sleep breaks, when they did not. Similarly, trucking companies often shirk their responsibility to properly train their drivers or to hire experienced drivers in efforts to save costs. These conditions virtually guarantee an accident waiting to happen.

Even with the latest move in the trucking industry to ban cell phone usage, and calling and texting while on the road, accidents caused by these very actions are still happening. Some truckers, feeling like nothing will happen to them, are still driving while distracted. This is a recipe for an accident.

Trucking accidents may become even more of a problem for residents of Austin and other Central Texas towns. The federal government recently began allowing trucks from Mexico to travel deep into the United States. Many of these trucks, which might pose an even bigger risk than domestic trucks, will be traveling through our area along I-35.

No matter what caused a truck accident that you may have been involved in and no matter where it happened, make the first phone call for legal help to a seasoned Austin personal injury attorney. With their help, you will be able to recover the compensation you need to cope with your injuries. An Austin personal injury attorney’s job is to help protect your rights and help you through the courts to get justice.

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

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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