Serious Personal Injury May Happen While Texting And Walking

No doubt you have seen the video of the woman texting and falling into a fountain at a shopping mall. While the video was funny and no one was serioiusly hurt, the ramifications for texting and walking have the potential to be fatal.

It used to be that everyone got to where they were going by just walking there. If they had anything to say to the person when they arrived, that was when the conversation took place. Cell phones had not yet been invented, and no one seemed to miss being out of touch with others. It was just the way life was back then. Now, with the advent of cell phones that do just about everything, staying in touch is not only easy, it may also kill.

Many people do not see the harm in texting while walking. After all, they are safe on the sidewalk, mall or wherever they happen to be headed. But, are they? Consider the case of the young teen who was texting her boyfriend about their planned date, when she walked out between two parked cars, right into the path of an 18-wheeler. The cell phone survived the impact. The young girl did not. Was her life worth texting dangerously?

What about the case of the young man who was walking down the stairs at work and texting his buddy about their weekend plans? Because he was not paying attention to where he was walking, he missed the last two steps, fell hard and hit his head on a cement floor. His cell phone survived the impact. He sustained traumatic brain injury. Was his forever altered life worth texting dangerously?

If you do not think texting and walking is a big deal, because maybe, nothing has ever happened to you, consider the emergency room statistics across the U.S. that show over 1,000 pedestrians have needed emergency medical care because of texting and walking accidents. Each year, the numbers go up, not down. While texting and walking is not a smart thing to do, texting and driving is markedly worse, as you can kill someone else by negligently not paying attention to the road. Be smart and above all, be safe.

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

New research shows linkages between PTSD, dementia and Alzheimer’s

If recent research proves to be accurate, there is a connection between traumatic brain injury (TBI), dementia and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

In most cases, dementia is typically linked to a degenerative brain disease. That presumption may be about to be challenged by a U.S. psychiatrist who has discovered a connection between dementia, TBI and PTSD. All signs point to war veterans having twice the normal chances of developing dementia, largely due to their exposure to head pounding sound waves from improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

The latest research is pointing to serious brain injury as being the link to an increased risk of dementia and, by extrapolation, hastening the onset of Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s is usually associated with the build-up of tau protein in the brain. Speculation has it that brain injuries are also precursors to tau build-up, or that the TBI is a precipitating factor in opening the door for Alzheimer’s. This observation would then be applicable to those who play contact sports and suffer a large number of serious concussions.

The group, led by Dr. Kristine Yaffe, was the first to prove that there is a connection between PTSD and a risk of developing dementia. However, they are not the only group to have come to the same conclusion.

While researchers are not certain about the precise mechanism of the detected linkages, they believe that chronic stress, such as that experienced in a battle zone, or changes within the brain, are the potential precursors to dementia/Alzheimer’s. This raises an interesting question. If PTSD were to be successfully treated, would that lower the risk of dementia?

This isn’t a question that can be answered any time soon, and most of the men and women who have TBI and/or PTSD would need to be cognitively monitored as they age. Are there solutions for coping with these diseases? Currently, while there is some progress in treating vets and sports victims with brain injuries, not much can help mitigate the ongoing battle they face every day to regain what was once a normal life.

While research is ongoing and funding is in place to address these issues, only time will weigh in with answers. Recently, there was a $60 million project, funded by the Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA) and the Department of Defense (DOD), to track down the links between neurological degeneration and TBI. It’s a can of worms that once opened may lead to some form of assistance for those who have sustained head injuries that have robbed them of the ability to be, think and act they way they used to.

What is the connection between TBI and the law? In the sports arena, if players are not adequately informed of the risks of playing, even with a good helmet, and are repeatedly sent on to the playing field despite having sustained a concussion, and they develop dementia, the negligence of the coach and team owners come under scrutiny. Should their case win in court, they may be awarded compensation for their injuries.

ADHD adversely affects driver’s reactions

Many know that texting while driving affects a driver’s reaction time. Few think about how attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) affects drivers.

People are generally aware of the developmental disorder ADHD. They know it can make some individuals restless or hyperactive and typically includes a short attention span. In many situations, this can run from just aggravating to downright frustrating. However, when it comes to driving, the short attention span is a potential danger, since the driver is not able stay focused on driving.

Medications for those with ADHD are a blessing and may control symptoms, but perhaps not enough to ensure an ADHD driver can handle the normal distractions of driving. In fact, a recent study has revealed that with the usual distractions that come with driving, ADHD drivers demonstrated a higher degree of variable speeds and changed lanes more often than those without this condition.

The study utilized 61 adolescents between the ages of 16 and 17. Thirty-three of the participants did not have ADHD. There were three tests used to determine distraction levels: test one had zero distractions in place; test two involved having a chat on a cell phone; and test three required participants to text and drive. The findings of the study showed ADHD adolescents fared worse in their efforts to maintain a steady lane position and speed.

On the same note, those with traumatic brain injury may face a similar problem when it comes to driving as well. There is more going on, on the road, than we might think. Even if we take to heart the “Drive Safe” admonition many are sent off with when we go somewhere, we can never know what other drivers are contending with as they drive.

If you have been involved in an accident with a distracted driver, contact an experienced injury attorney for information on obtaining possible compensation for injuries you may have.

Posted on: October 28, 2013 | Tagged

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.

Checking a player for concussion may not be enough

A 30-year-old football player died as a result of complications associated with degenerative brain disease.

When the nation first became aware of the issues surrounding traumatic brain injury, it was noted that is seemed to be confined to older players who had seen their fair share of bone crunching scrimmages during their career.

Then, younger players began taking their lives and a whole new can of worms opened up —- traumatic brain injury did not just affect older players, it seemed. It stalked everyone who played a contact sport, regardless of age or sex.

Recently, a 30-year-old former quarterback went missing in the woods while on a fishing trip. He was found dead, with no signs that suggested he took his own life. He had been drinking and was found lying in his own vomit. His official cause of death was pneumonia due to inhaling his body fluids.

However, the pathologist also found that chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) was a contributing cause in the former player’s death. Due to the CTE, the young man was disoriented and suffering from paranoia. The amount of alcohol found in his body was rated as negligible.

In examining the deceased’s playing history, it was discovered that during his career on the field, he had only suffered one concussion. Despite sustaining a recognizable concussion, which coaching staff felt was mild, he was put back in the game and only told to come out at halftime. Further reports showed he was also vetted by a bevy of doctors who cleared him to play in further games.

The lesson is that even “mild” concussions have the capacity to seriously affect a player. When the young man was put back into game play, with a concussion, and cleared to play more games, his fate was sealed. It is time the name of the game is safety for the player and not winning at all costs – a cost that includes the destruction of a person’s normal life due to brain injury and/or their subsequent death.

For those who participate in contact sports, you need to know that if you are not thoroughly briefed on the risks of playing and sustaining traumatic brain injury (TBI), and there was negligence present, such as being put back into the game without being pulled out immediately, you have a right to sue for compensation.

Posted on: October 15, 2013 | Tagged

Two Massachusetts hospitals may co-opt TBI patients into a study without their permission

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) patients in Massachusetts may end up participating in a study without giving their permission.

While the question of informed consent is a huge one when being admitted to hospital and having procedures, tests and diagnostics run, being enrolled in a medical study without consent may cross a legal line. If negligence is involved, being co-opted into a medical study could spell serious issues for the hospitals.

Boston Medical Center and the Massachusetts General Hospital have launched tests to see if giving traumatic brain injury patients progesterone as soon as possible after a head injury limits brain damage. Evidently, there are current studies that show the hormone may slow the secondary cascade of injuries that come on the heels of the initial trauma. The trial was approved by review boards at both facilities.

According to federal law, researchers in this study must obtain an okay for the patient or patient surrogate prior to giving an experimental drug. This particular trial is one of the first that relies on a 1996 exemption to study emergency treatments. Legally speaking, if something went wrong during the course of the study involving a patient that had not provided an informed consent, the exemption could face successful challenges in a lawsuit.

This study is not solely taking place in Boston. There are over 40 other hospitals in the nation also focusing on whether or not progesterone helps limit brain trauma if administered early. Researchers attempt to get consent from a victim if they are able to communicate their wishes or if their family consents. The reality is that TBI patients often come in needing immediate treatment and medical personnel cannot wait for the family to be found and may not be able to talk to the victim. This means that in an emergency, the drug would be given and an option offered to opt out of the trial later.

The fact that the researchers have provided a phone line for those wishing to opt out of the study is encouraging and a step in the right direction to address anyone’s concerns about being given an experimental drug. Again, the reality of an emergency situation may mean the drug is given anyway.

The main question in situations like this becomes whether or not the patient, or their family, would object to the possibility of a life enhancing treatment, even if it were experimental. Many may feel that any chance at all is preferable to going without treatment and facing the life altering consequences of TBI. This is not to say that treated TBI may not still change someone’s lifestyle, but the progesterone may reduce the severity of the changes.

If you find yourself in a situation like this and have objections to being given drugs without your consent, it is wise to seek the counsel of an experienced Austin personal injury lawyer. This is groundbreaking medicine that may save lives, but there are still those who would prefer not to be test subjects without knowing how a drug or procedure may affect them.

Posted on: September 18, 2013 | Tagged

Parents do not understand risks children are exposed to playing contact sports

Playing contact sports carries the risk of long-term brain damage. It only takes a minor concussion to affect the brain.

Reading the sports section of the paper is depressingly dismal, as lately it contains stories about well-known and respected athletes who are suffering from traumatic brain injury or have taken their own lives as a result of those injuries. It is dismal for a number of reasons: to know that these athletes played and were allowed to keep playing, despite their concussions, that traumatic brain injury was apparently common knowledge, even years ago, but nothing was done about it, and that these individuals are suffering, or committed suicide, as the result of the negligence of others.

Consider the case of Tom McHale, who played in the National Football League (NFL) from 1987 to 1995. He died of an overdose in 2008. Addicted to painkillers, he also struggled with severe depression. His autopsy showed traumatic brain injury. His wife decided to share the news of his autopsy with others in order to help them understand that those with brain injuries are experiencing neurological issues that are not their fault. This a major reason thousands of former football players, 4,200, or close to a third of the 12,000 players in the league, are suing the NFL.

The NFL thinks the cases should be within the purview of an arbitrator. Legal counsel thinks the cases need to be heard in federal court. Most of the cases argue that the NFL made a huge profit from the violence of the sport and chose to ignore the damage to players sustaining numerous hits to the head. Other evidence suggests the league deliberately hid what they knew about the science of neurological problems being linked to concussions.

One wonders what the league was hoping to accomplish when they set up a group of people to take a look at the correlation between these two issues. Their committee, launched in 1994 and called the Mild Traumatic Brain Injury committee, was led by a rheumatologist. Two things stand out about the committee, and the first was calling it “mild” traumatic brain injury, as if that somehow diminished its impact or consequences. It does not. The issue is that frequent hits to the head add up over time causing dementia and other problems. The second point is that the committee was led by a doctor with no particular experience with head injuries.

The bottom line is that whatever the judge hearing the arguments decides, the case(s) will be worth billions to both sides. There is a lot at stake. Former players that are still alive and fighting depression, Alzheimer’s and dementia, suggest the league was negligent is hustling them back into play after they suffered concussions. The few that do not currently have issues, want their health closely monitored. The defining issue in the argument as to where the cases should be heard is whether or not the player’s contracts clearly spell out that head trauma/injuries are workplace safety issues.

All in all, this is an issue that will not go away anytime soon. If you have young children who want to play contact sports, you might wish to rethink that. As it stands, no one knows the true risks and consequences our children take when playing them.

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: Neuropsychological Testing

If you have suffered a brain injury, you might be referred to a neuropsychologist, who will often recommend neuropsychological testing.

A neuropsychologist is a psychiatrist with a specialty in the science of brain-behavior relationships.  In other words, they deal with how brain function affects your behavior.   The neuropsychologist uses a number of methods, including neuropsychological testing, to evaluate your injury.

Neuropsychological exams usually consist of a series of questions about your condition.  Some tests may be brief, but some may be much more detailed, taking up to a full day.

The test results are used for a number of different purposes.   Depending on the need, the purposes may include (1) diagnosis of an injury; (2) patient care and planning; (3) treatment; (4) evaluation of treatment; (5) research; and (6) forensic neuropsychology — for use in litigation and lawsuits.

For personal injury purposes, we’re interested in all of those categories.  We’re interested in 1-4 to make sure you get better and get the care you need, and we also seek a forensic evaluation for your case.  In the litigation context, the neuropsychologist can help confirm you have a brain injury, document the extent of your injury, evaluate your future course of treatment, and provide opinions about your recovery, both in terms of your daily activities and your work life.

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.

 

 

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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