Understanding Traumatic Brain Injury After Injury

When a person is injured in a car wreck, motorcycle wreck, or other personal injury, sometimes the most harmful injuries are those that you cannot see with the naked eye:  a brain injury.  Sometimes brain injuries are obvious and an injured person’s functioning is so impaired that they are left unable to speak, walk, or feed themselves.  Other times, the brain injury is subtler.  Called a mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) , these injuries can be as devastating as a spinal cord injury or any other serious injury.  However, because the injured person may “look” normal, it can be more difficult to recover compensation for these types of cases.

Brain Anatomy

The human brain is the most complex and sensitive organ in the body.  Weighing only about 3 lbs., the brain is the essence of what makes a person who they are.    There are several parts to the brain, and each part has its own function.  The three (3) main parts are the cerebrum, cerebellum and the brain stem.  The brain stem is located at the base of the brain and contains the midbrain, pons and medulla.  This section of the brain is responsible for automatic body functions such as breathing, heart rate, digestion, and regulating body temperature.  It also serves as a relay system between the rest of the brain and the central nervous system.  An injury to this area of the brain usually is catastrophic and results in death.

The cerebellum is above the brain stem and it coordinates muscle movements and balance.

The largest part of the brain is the cerebrum and is divided into right and left hemispheres.  This part of the brain is associated with higher brain function including thinking, memory, and emotion.  It is filled with approximately 100 billion neurons which are elongated nerve cells that transmit signals to each other through electrical and chemical signals.  The communication between these cells enable us to think, have emotion, react to stimuli, and remember.  These cells are very small, about 30,000 neurons can fit on the head of a pin, and can only be observed under strong microscopes.

The brain has the consistency of firm jelly.  It floats in fluid, called cerebra spinal fluid, which acts as a shock absorber.  It is also surrounded by protective tissue called meninges.  Outside of the meninges, the brain is surrounded by the skull.

Injury

Despite its protective coating, the brain can suffer injury when the head suffers a blow or the head is thrown forward and backward quickly, as can happen in a car wreck.  The brain is subject to the same laws of physics as everything else, and when a person is in a car wreck at 45 mph and comes to a sudden and violent stop, the brain continues its motion until it, too stops, by striking the inside of the skull.

When the brain impacts the skull, a mild traumatic brain injury can occur.  Some of those billions of neurons can be damaged, the axons of the nerve cell can be bent or broken, and the ability of the brain cells to “talk to” each other can become impaired.  When this type of injury happens, the person may have difficulty talking, remembering information, or controlling emotions.

Symptoms

Each brain injury is unique.  Like a fingerprint, as each person has a unique brain, each person’s symptoms of and reaction to a mTBI is different.  However, some common symptoms include:

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Seeing stars
  • Confusion
  • Loss of appetite
  • Irritability
  • Nausea
  • Sensitivity to Light/ Noise
  • Blurred vision
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of sense of smell

Symptoms that might manifest themselves at a later date include:

  • Difficulty following conversations
  • Struggling to find the right word
  • Mood swings
  • Difficulty with short term memory
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Lashing out and yelling at family members
  • Withdrawal and disengaging from social situations and friends and family

Why can’t we see a mTBI on an x-ray, CT scan or MRI?

X-rays, CT scans, or MRIs are very good tools at getting a picture of the human body.  Think of these tools as good digital cameras taking pictures of inside of the body.  They can spot diseases, broken bones, and internal organ damage.  They help doctors see inside a patient’s body without having to cut open the body and look for themselves.

What these tools cannot do, however, is see the body’s cells up close.  Instead of the digital camera, due to the very small size of neurons, a doctor needs a microscope, and a very powerful microscope at that.  Because we cannot take brain cells out of the brain and look at them under a microscope, mTBI cannot currently be diagnosed with scans or blood testing on a living patient.     Researchers are working on ways to find mTBI by blood testing, by tracing protein levels (Tau proteins), but this research is still in development and not available to the public.

Recovery

The outcome of a person who suffers a mild traumatic brain injury can be difficult to predict.  As each brain injury is different and unique, a person’s ability to recover is unique.  However, certain factors can make a good recovery more likely.  Younger individuals, for example, are more likely to recover from brain injury than older individuals.  Obtaining therapies from a qualified speech therapist can also help.  An injured patient is also more likely to recover if they obtain competent medical care following their accident.  Many people make a full recovery.  However, some injured people do not.  Doctors predict that most of an injured person’s recovery from a mild traumatic brain injury will occur within the first year after the accident.  After that point, recovery is not as certain.  Additionally, persons suffering from mTBI are at higher risk for developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease later in life.

Summary

Many people who suffer from mild traumatic brain injury look normal at first glance.  However, although the injury may be invisible to the casual observer, it is very real.  Injured persons need our support and encouragement.  With time and luck, they may return to a functioning level.  For those that do not, the injured person needs the best care medicine can provide and our compassion.

 

Ruth Smith is a dedicated trial lawyer in Asheville, NC representing people since 1999.  She focuses her practice in Personal Injury, Car Accidents, Social Security Disability, Workers’ Compensation and Dog Bite Injuries. She is a member of the North Carolina Advocates for Justice’s Auto Torts and Workers’ Compensation Sections and is a certified North Carolina Court Mediator. For more information, visit www.mywncattorney.com.

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Negligent Homeowners — Trick or Treat…

Negligent homeowners beware: it’s Halloween and you’re getting visitors. North Carolina premises liability law governs whether you will be held liability for injuries sustained on your property. With Halloween just around the corner, you’ll no doubt be getting lots of guests to your property, whether you like it or not. Most of these guests are small children who will be running through the dark of night toward your front door in hopes of scoring lots of candy. But what happens if they trip and fall along the way?

The Basics of Premises Liability Law in NC

Property owners have a duty to keep their property safe. Negligent homeowners will pay the price for failing to do so, as the rules of negligence in personal injury extend not only to retail property owners, but also to homeowners. In some instances there are conditions which are dangerous or potentially dangerous. If the property owner can not remedy those conditions, there is at the very least a duty to warn your visitors and guests of the dangerous conditions, especially if it’s reasonable to expect visitors.

In addition to the potential for a trick-or-treater falling on your property, you should also beware that Halloween is a time where the family dog may not be so fond of visitors dressed in strange costumes. It’s reasonable to expect dog bites and injuries related to dog attacks to increase during Halloween, and the property owner or dog owner can be held liable for the attack, especially if the dog has a documented history of such behavior.

Am I A Negligent Homeowner?

Each claim against a negligent homeowner in a personal injury matter essentially requires that the components of Negligence are satisfied in order for the plaintiff to successfully prove their case. Those elements are:

  • The homeowner owed a duty to the injured party
  • The duty was breached
  • The breach of that duty gave rise to the injury in question
  • There were damages resulting directly from the injury

There are numerous instances where a homeowner may in fact be negligent; however, if there are no damages resulting from that negligence, there is no claim to be pursued by the other party. For example, a homeowner who fails to maintain his walkway may have breached his duty to his guest. If that guest trips and falls because of this failure to maintain the walkway, the guest is well on their way to having a negligence claim against the property owner. However, consider that in some instances the trip and fall victim lands softly in the grass, gets up, wipes the grass stains off of their pants, and realizes they are not injured. In this case, there is no viable claim for recovery under the principle of Negligence, as the fourth prong of Negligence has not been met: there are no damages (other than a bruised ego from falling in front of friends).

How Long Do I Have To File A Lawsuit?

As with most negligence claims, you have three years from the date of the accident to settle the claim or file a lawsuit. This is known as the statute of limitations. This three-year time frame gives the injured party enough time to realize the full extent of their injuries. It also gives the injured party enough time to receive treatment for those injuries and obtain representation (i.e. get a personal injury lawyer) so that they may recover from the negligent homeowner.

Call A Charlotte Personal Injury Lawyer Today

If you or someone you know was injured at a private residence or in a retail location, call us today for a free case evaluation. You can reach us at 704.749.7747. Or, you can click HERE to request a phone call from an attorney. We hope you’ll choose to Recover With Us.

This post was authored by The Layton Law Firm, a Personal Injury and Consumer Bankruptcy firm in Charlotte, NC.  The Personal Injury work the firm handles ranges from minor traffic accidents and slip and fall cases, to wrongful death and medical malpractice cases. The Bankruptcy work the firm handles is all consumer-related and is a Federal law practice focused on Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 filings for individuals.  Chris Layton, J.D. is the founder of The Layton Law Firm. He holds a B.A. in Journalism from The University of Maryland at College Park and a J.D. from Wake Forest University. For more, visit thelaytonlawfirm.com/.

The Defendant in Your Case Wants Your Private Information

After you are wronged or badly injured, your health, your money, and your future may all be at stake. You try to do all you can to recover from a bad situation that is not your fault. You fight your fear and call us for help. Then your lawsuit is finally filed and you can begin to think that this important situation might someday come to an end.

Then you receive questions sent by the defendant. We tell you to answer them to the best of your ability. You look at the questions in disbelief. You see that the defendant has asked for information that your co-workers, your friends, or maybe even your mother might not even guess about you!

If you receive these questions, then your case is in discovery. This is the pre-trial procedure that allows you and the defendant to exchange information and evidence in a formal way. We also serve the defendant with discovery. You may see the some of the following types of discovery in your claim:

  • Interrogatories: questions that require written answers.
  • Requests for production: ask for documents that support your answers or are relevant to your claim, like medical records.
  • Depositions: oral questioning under oath
  • Requests for admission: ask to admit or deny statements
  • Subpoenas: ask for a person to produce documents or to testify
  • Requests for medical examinations

The most important rule in discovery is always the simplest one:  tell the truth. As in most things, remember what your parents told you – the truth is what matters. Telling a lie may mean that information that could have stayed out of court – because the other side is trying to catch any untruths or any missing information. They are looking for this because they want to make you look bad at trial.

Can they ask that? Most people are concerned because the questions ask for personal information. Sometimes that information could be:

  • Where you went to school
  • Where you have lived and worked
  • Your past injuries
  • Mental health and other medical treatment
  • Your criminal history and driving record
  • Past lawsuits and settlements
  • Your social media posts
  • Other subjects having to do with your claim

Your lawyer will object and not answer certain questions. Some information is too far in the past to matter and some you may not recall. Some information is simply too much to have to provide, or could even be information that the defendant already has. And you won’t have to provide information that is just between you and your lawyer! That information is privileged. But you should provide all the information you can, even when you think it is not important or none of the defendant’s business.

Rest assured that at every step in discovery we are there to answer your questions. We will be there to help pull information together, to request records, and to prepare you for what is to come. But your lawyer cannot answer the defendant’s questions for you. The answers must be your own.

Copeley Johnson & Groninger PLLC is a law firm focused on representing individuals and their family members who find themselves in circumstances that they never expected.  Their clients include those who have been injured on the job, on the road, and on the premises of businesses and public facilities.  They also help those whose employers have violated their legal rights.  For more on this firm, visit http://www.cjglawfirm.com or call (919) 240-4054.

Workers’ Compensation and Personal Injury – What is the Difference and Why Should I Care?

A workers’ compensation claim and a personal injury case are completely different things. If you have been injured it is important to understand which kind of case you have, or if maybe you have both, and the differences between the two.

Is the injury related to your job?

A worker who is injured on the job in NC may have a workers’ compensation claim. The injury must come from an accident that happens in the “course and scope” of the work. Not all workplace injuries are covered by workers’ compensation in North Carolina. Workers who develop an occupational disease in North Carolina may be covered by workers’ compensation if their employment put them at risk for the condition. The point is that to have a workers’ compensation case in NC the injury or medical condition must be related to your employment.

Personal injury cases on the other hand can happen anywhere and do not need to be related to your employment. Typical examples of personal injury cases include automobile accidents, slip and falls, and professional malpractice.

Was somebody else at fault?

With workers’ compensation, it does not matter who was at fault in causing the injury. An injured worker does not have to prove that the employer was at fault. In fact, an injured worker can receive workers’ compensation benefits in North Carolina even if the worker accidentally causes the injury. In workers’ compensation, fault does not matter as to whether the claim is valid or not.

In a personal injury claim the injured person must show that the person who caused the injury was “negligent.” Negligence means the breach of a legal duty of care resulting in an injury and damages. In other words, negligence is hurting someone because you are not being careful enough. (Although my law school torts professor would have disapproved of that definition.) In a personal injury case in North Carolina, if the injured person is partly at fault in causing the injury, his or her claim may be barred. This is called “contributory negligence.” In North Carolina, an injured person who contributes even 1% to his or her own injury may not be able to recover at all.

Who do you file your claim against?

If you are injured on the job in North Carolina, you should file your workers’ compensation claim against your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance company or workers’ compensation administrator. This claim will be handled by the North Carolina Industrial Commission. With very few exceptions you cannot file a lawsuit for a workplace injury against your employer in civil court, even if you were injured because of your employer’s carelessness. Again, in workers’ compensation cases fault does not matter. Your only option is to take your claim to the Industrial Commission. This is known as the “exclusive remedy” provision. The exclusive remedy rule also applies if you are hurt at work because of the carelessness of a co-worker. Again, you must file the claim with the Industrial Commission.

Deciding who to recover from in a personal injury claim is a little more complicated. You can seek to recover from the person or people whose lack of care caused your injuries. If you are injured in an automobile accident that is someone else’s fault, and that person was driving a vehicle owned by a family member, you may be able to recover from the vehicle owner. If the person who injured you was acting as an employee of a company you can also seek to recover against that company.

Where, when and how do you file your claim?

If you are injured on the job you must file your North Carolina workers’ compensation claim with the North Carolina Industrial Commission. In most cases, you must file your claim within two years. You should also give notice right away to your employer. The Industrial Commission is a government agency responsible for administering workers’ comp claims in North Carolina. The Industrial Commission decides disputes between injured workers and their employer’s workers’ compensation insurance company, including whether an injury or occupational disease is covered by workers’ comp, what medical treatment should be provided, and what wage replacement benefits are owed. The Industrial Commission also reviews all workers’ compensation settlements in North Carolina.

If you are injured because of someone’s carelessness and have a personal injury claim, you can file a lawsuit in civil court. In most cases, you have three years from the date of the injury to file your lawsuit, but there are many exceptions to this rule. Most claims can be filed in the county where you live or where one of the people you are suing lives. Your lawsuit, call a “complaint,” must be filed with the Clerk of Court and must be delivered to or “served” on each defendant. A judge will make decisions about who should be involved in the lawsuit, what evidence can be used, and when the case will be heard. You have the right to have your damages decided by a jury in a personal injury case.

What can you recover?

Workers’ compensation in North Carolina provides two benefits, medical treatment paid for by workers’ compensation for the injured body part, and workers’ compensation disability payments. Workers’ compensation does not pay pain and suffering or other types of damages.

If you have a personal injury case you may be able to recover a much broader range of damages, including past and future medical expenses and wage loss, as well as for pain and suffering.

Can you have both a workers’ compensation case and a personal injury claim?

If you are injured on the job through the carelessness of someone who is not an employer or co-worker, you may have both a workers’ compensation claim and a personal injury claim. You can and should pursue both. An example would be if you were injured in an automobile accident while on the job in North Carolina. The workers’ compensation insurance company may be able to recover money it pays on the workers’ compensation claim from the personal injury case so the cases must be carefully coordinated.

 

Kevin Bunn is a North Carolina workers’ compensation lawyer. He has practiced law in Cary, North Carolina, since 1993. Kevin is a Board Certified Expert in North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Law, a member of the North Carolina Industrial Commission’s Advisory Council, a past Chair of the NCAJ Workers’ Compensation Section, and serves on the NCAJ Board of Governors. For more information about Kevin and his law practice please visit ncworkercomp.com.

Generic vs. Branded Drugs – Yes, There Is A Difference When You Have a Drug Related Injury

Every day, millions of Americans have prescriptions filled with generic drugs. Because we have become so accustomed to generic drugs –  over 80% of prescriptions are filled using generics – we don’t give much thought to it.  In most circumstances, a doctor or pharmacist will tell you that there is no difference between the name brand drug or its generic equivalent.  However, your ability to recover for injuries caused by prescription drugs depends on whether you took the branded or generic version.

In 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling, Pliva v. Mensing, that effectively made generic drug makers not responsible for injuries to consumers. The most common theory for a products liability claim against a drug manufacturer is a failure to adequately warn of the drug’s side effects and risks.  These claims are brought under state laws that are stricter than FDA regulations and impose a duty on a manufacturer to change the label on a drug when they know of potential injuries.  A branded drug manufacturer has the ability under federal law (the FDA) to change their warning label whenever necessary.  But under federal law, the labeling and warnings on a generic drug must be identical to the named brand counterpart. Meaning, the warnings on a generic drug can only be changed if the warnings on the brand name drug are changed.  Since federal law usually preempts or overrules state laws, the Supreme Court said it would be “impossible for the [generic drug] manufacturer to comply with both their state law duty to change the label and their federal law duty to keep the label the same.”  Accordingly, plaintiffs cannot sue a generic drug manufacturer for failure to adequately warn of a drug’s side effects.

The FDA has been considering a rule that would allow generic drug manufacturers to independently update their warning labels.   Efforts to convince Congress to change the rules with legislation failed.  Until there is a change, many consumers will have no legal recourse against the manufacturers of the drugs that injure them.

 

Written by Jean Sutton Martin of the Law Office of Jean Sutton Martin PLLC.  Attorney Jean Sutton Martin provides focused, personalized legal solutions for people who have been harmed by pharmaceutical drugs and medical devices.

Reflections on Medical Malpractice cases in North Carolina

A friend of mine recently asked me why medical malpractice cases are so challenging to litigate in North Carolina.  My response was that medical malpractice cases are some of my favorite and most rewarding cases to handle because of the close connections I’ve formed with my clients.  These clients, through no fault of their own, were all seriously injured because of a preventable medical mishap.  Like most relationships forged in trying circumstances, these bonds are meaningful, deep, and permanent.

Medical malpractice cases are difficult for many reasons.  Because they require expert witness testimony, they tend to be expensive.  It is often necessary to hire a number of medical doctors to review the case and testify, and these doctors typically charge for their time by the hour.  These cases are typically defended very aggressively by attorneys hired by medical malpractice insurance companies.  Therefore, there are usually many trips required to take and defend numerous depositions, each incurring the costs of travel, lodging, transportation, meals, etc., in addition to the costs of a court reporter and a written transcript.  Medical malpractice cases are also much more likely to be tried than ordinary negligence cases.  This means that additional costs are incurred to create exhibits, for witness travel and testimony, and for lodging, meals, and other incidental costs.  Plaintiffs in medical malpractice cases also face a number of legislative, procedural, and other rhetorical difficulties, including arbitrary legislative caps on damages, widespread (but unfounded) fears among potential jurors of frivolous lawsuits, and usually a lack of cooperation from subsequent treating physicians.

Because medical malpractice cases are so challenging in our State, it is vital that victims consult with an attorney with substantial experience in this specialized area of the law.  When considering counsel, inquire about the percentage of medical malpractice cases handled by the lawyer or firm, question whether and how often the lawyer or firm has tried medical malpractice trials, and ask about the challenges and potential costs of pursuing your case.  Finally, but just as importantly, seek an attorney with whom you will likely form a meaningful personal, in addition, to a professional bond.

 John Chilson is a partner at Comerford & Britt, LLP, in Winston-Salem where he focuses his practice on catastrophic personal injury and medical malpractice claims.  He, and all of the other experienced medical malpractice litigators at Comerford & Britt, LLP, will be glad to answer your questions and identify all available legal options.  Please visit www.comerfordbritt.com or call 877-631-8510.

Road Rage and Aggressive Driving Remains a Serious Safety Hazard for North Carolina Drivers

Across North Carolina, car accidents linked to reckless driving continues to increase. With 80% of U.S. drivers experiencing road rage while behind the wheel, it is safe to say measures must be taken in order to prevent and minimize injuries linked to aggressive drivers. Far too many preventable car accidents occur each year due to distracted, aggressive and negligent driving behaviors while behind the wheel.

According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, accidents linked to aggressive driving and road rage are on the rise:

  • Between 2011 and 2015, there were a reported total of 55,000 car accidents in North Carolina as a result of careless driving.
  • Accidents related to careless driving resulted in 1,401 fatalities in North Carolina between 2011 and 2015.
  • The AAA Carolina’s Foundation for Traffic Safety reports that 8 million U.S drivers experience extreme road rage.

Unfortunately, North Carolina is not the only state that deals with this issue. 78% of U.S drivers reported to being involved in at least one aggressive driving behavior in the past year. The most common aggressive driving behaviors include: abusing the car horn, knowingly tailgating other vehicles and yelling at other motorists.

Tiffany Wright, President of The AAA Carolina’s Foundation for Traffic Safety, reminds North Carolina drivers to always remain calm behind the wheel. Frustrations and aggressive driving can dramatically increase a motorist’s risk of being involved in a car accident.

At Daggett Shuler Law, Winston-Salem and Greensboro, North Carolina Personal Injury lawyers, we care about the safety of all North Carolina drivers. Please remember to remain calm on the roads at all times. Do not allow frustration to put yourself and others in a dangerous position on the road.

If you or a loved one is injured in an accident involving an aggressive driver, call Daggett Shuler Law right away at 336-724-1234. When you call, you will speak with an experienced Winston-Salem and Greensboro, North Carolina Car Accident Attorney absolutely FREE. We will review every detail of your accident at no cost and fight hard to protect your rights.

When you call Daggett Shuler, you will speak with an experienced Winston-Salem and Greensboro attorney at no cost to you. We will investigate every detail of your situation and fight hard to protect your rights. At Daggett Shuler Law, you will never pay an attorney’s fee up front and you owe us nothing unless we recover for you.

 

Daggett Shuler is a law firm dedicated to protecting the rights of victims injured in accidents, workers hurt on the job and of people in need of Social Security Disability benefits.   For more information or for contact information for their Winston-Salem or Greensboro offices, visit www.daggettshulerlaw.com.