Unprecedented Actions: HoverBoard Industry Is Deemed Unsafe

Last Thursday, the Consumer Product Safety Commission took the unprecented step of sending a letter to all hoverboard manufacturers, importers and retailing telling them that all hoverboards are potentially unsafe.  One major manufacturer, Swagway, has also told people who own its hoverboards to quit using them until they are deemed safe.

This is a shocking turn of events.  Two months ago, hoverboards were among the most popular Christmas gifts, and now the entire industry is in a bit of turmoil.

There were a couple of things that were very interesting about this to me.  First, in the letter, the CPSC declares that no manufacturer in the industry meets the CPSC’s safety standards.  This is amazing.  I can’t think of another instance off the top of my head where the government has declared an entire industry unsafe.

Second, the reason provided by the CPSC was also interesting.  The CPSC declared hoverboards unsafe because of their risk of fires caused by the batteries.  This is certainly a known risk, but in my mind, not the greatest risk.

For me, the most significant risk from hoverboards is the risk of falls and related injuries.  There have been hundreds of reports of people falling off of their hoverboards and incurring significant injuries, including numerous brain injuries and fractures of various bones.  Those types of injuries have the potential to be permanently life-altering.

I don’t know how this will turn out.  At some point, after more testing is done, perhaps the government will declare that some hoverboards are safe.  But we’re clearly not at that point yet.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

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.

Austin Dog Bites Are Increasing

Beware of dog sign.Last week, the Austin American Statesman reported that dog attacks are increasing in Austin.  The number of dog attacks has increased every year since 2007.  This year is no exception.  Austin has experienced over 1,000 attacks so far, on pace to break last year’s record.

These are not good statistics.  I’ve represented a number of victims of dog attacks, ranging from the run-of-the-mill attacks to a horrific case where a dog attacked and killed a young child.

These are often terrible cases for those involved.  With aggressive dogs, there is usually significant pain and trauma relating to the original attack.  Many serious attacks have long-term physical consequences, including physical limitations and scarring.  And almost all involve permanent psychological scarring.

Legally, there are a number of different avenues of claims that may be made.  The obvious claim stemming from a dog attack is against the dog owner.  In Texas, dog owners have various responsibilities to help protect the public from unsafe dogs.

If the dog owner was a renter, there may be a claim against the home or apartment owner, depending on the specific facts of the attack.  Additionally, if the dog owner was a renter and a property management company was involved, the property management company also has duties and responsibilities that it must follow.

The more difficult situation in these cases is finding funds for a recovery.  Traditionally, homeowners’ insurance companies have provided coverage for these claims.  Now, as insurance companies are becoming more aware of how serious these claims are, many companies are starting to exclude coverage for dog attack claims.  This is important information to know not only for the victim of attack, but also for dog owners.  If you own a dog, talk to your insurance company and make sure that you’re covered should something go wrong.

 

If you or a loved one has been injured in a dog attack, please call us for help at (512)476-4944.

 

Check Your Tires — Tragic Caldwell County Wreck Yesterday

Background of the tire tread Yesterday, there was a horrific car wreck on Texas 130 in Caldwell County that killed 4 adults and left 5 more children injured.

The wreck hits home as it occurred near the Texas 130/Schuelke Road intersection, and yes, Schuelke Road does refer to my family.

The investigation is just beginning, but one suggestion is that the driver lost control after the vehicle lost the tread on one of the tires.  The theory is that the tire became so hot from driving at the toll road speeds (the speed limit is 85 miles per hour) that the tread separated.

It wouldn’t be the first time such a wreck occurred on 130.  I travel it fairly frequently back and forth between Austin and Lockhart, and there are often the remnants of tire thrown across the highway.  There is also a report that a tire blow out led to a fatal crash along 130 near Manor back in April.

The lesson to learn is that you need to check your tires.  Speed limits are now higher than they’ve historically been, and you should take time to make sure the condition of your tires can handle the driving conditions you’ll be encountering.

I’m also intrigued by these types of wrecks because they bring novel legal theories.  For example, the injured or killed would obviously have a claim against the driver who lost control.  But they may also have a products liability claim against the tire manufacturer or a claim against the manufacturer of the vehicle that the vehicle wasn’t designed well enough to sustain the forces in the rollover collision (these are called crashworthiness cases).  These types of cases, with novel and not always obvious claims, are the ones where hiring the right lawyer can really make a difference in the type of recovery ultimately obtained.

 

Austin Police Chief: Too Many Austin Car Wrecks

Young man using smart phone in his car

Young man using smart phone in his car

Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo took the unusual step this week of having a press conference to urge Austin drivers to be more safe.   Chief Acevedo was prompted to take the action because this year has already been record-setting in terms of number of traffic fatalities.

Acevedo noted that the top causes of wrecks are intoxication, speed, distraction and failure to stop.

I won’t argue with Chief Acevedo.  We see wrecks car caused by these four items every day.

Personally, we hope Austinites and others heed Chief Acevedo’s warnings so that our roadways are safer for all of us.

You can read more about his press conference here and here.

What Is A Life Care Planner?

Many of our more serious cases require a life care planner.

A life care planner is an expert witness, usually a doctor or nurse or combination of the two, who sets out the likely care that you’ll need for the rest of your life.  It can include things such as surgeries, physical therapy, follow up doctor care, and accommodations (walkers, shower stools, etc as applicable) that you will need.

The life care planner then estimates the costs of this care throughout your life.

Life care planners are very useful because they can give you a holistic view of your injuries and prognosis that covers a number of different disciplines.  In the non-litigation world, these experts are often seen as case managers — coordinating your care among the different types of doctors that you have to see.

The downside of life care planners is that, like other experts, they can be extremely expensive.  Before hiring one, we’ll have to make a decision about whether the expense can be justified.

The Failure of Tort Reform

Steve Cohen has an interesting article, On Tort Reform, It’s Time To Declare Victory and Withdraw, detailing the failings of tort reform in the medical malpractice context.  In his article, Steve outlines some of the things we’ve learned since tort reform started passing in waves, including in Texas:

1) Tort reform hasn’t decreased healthcare costs.  The theory was that doctors afraid of getting sued were prescribing all kinds of unnecessary tests.  In fact, studies have shown that doctors in states that have enacted tort reform measures prescribe tests at the same rate as those that haven’t had tort reform measures.

2) Runaway juries aren’t a real problem.  Indeed, the data suggests that the average jury awards in medical malpractice cases are significantly lower than the average awards handed down by judges.  If anything, juries are conservative on these cases.

3) Tort reform hasn’t significantly decreased the cost of insurance for doctors, though in states with tort reform measures the increases in rates have been slightly lower than the increases in states without tort reform.

What has happened since tort reform?  Insurance company profits have skyrocketed.  That’s who has really benefited from tort reform.

Unfortunately, in Texas and other states, while trying to craft tort reform for medical malpractice cases, the reforms have bled into other areas of claims, and have hurt the rights of most injured persons and businesses.

With tort reform proven to be a failure, it’s time to make sure it stops.

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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