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Brain Injuries Archives

CONCUSSION BRAIN SCANS

One of the major obstacles in presenting and proving that somebody has sustained a permanent brain injury from a concussion is that such brain damage does not show up on a typical MRI or CT scan, much less an x-ray. However, some recent developments have provided some exciting evidence in this regard. There is something called DTI imaging which is a software program that can provide a picture of the disruption in a human brain caused by concussions. The software program works in combination with a very high tech MRI scan using something called a 3T MRI scanner. The results can actually produce a three dimensional image showing the human brain and showing the areas which are not functioning properly as a result of the injury. There are a select few facilities in the entire United States which have and understand this technology. Most recently here in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area a well-known medical imaging facility has acquired this scanning capability and has made arrangements with doctors in California and Alaska who can interpret the results.

Crash Avoidance Technology Underused

In the Star Tribune newspaper this past Thanksgiving day was an article about crash avoidance technology in automobiles and the fact that auto manufacturers have not made it standard equipment yet, despite overwhelming evidence that it is cheap and incredibly effective.

Distracted Driving Deaths Jump


In today's Star Tribune the headline on page 1 read as above. The article went on to note that there was a 21% increase in 2015 in traffic deaths in Minnesota attributed to distracted driving. Perhaps more worrisome is the fact that traffic deaths went up in 2015 over 2014. The good news was that speeding related fatalities were reduced by 17%. Donna Berger, director of the Office of Traffic Safety for the state of Minnesota was interviewed and commented that distractions can come in many forms including eating, grooming, picking up a dropped item or trying to monitor kids in the back seat. It isn't all about texting and driving.

Farming is Dangerous Work

In Monday's Star Tribune was a tragic report of a death in Renville County of a 53-year-old farmer who was crushed by the tractor tire he was trying to change.For every 100,000 farm workers, about 25 are killed each year and 243 are injured. 5% of those injuries result in some sort of permanent disability. The National Safety Council also reports that of the approximately 3.1 million people who work on America's 2.3 million farms and ranches, 1300 die each year and 120,000 are injured. This makes farming one of the most dangerous occupations in America, right behind underground coal mining.Sadly, many farm fatalities involve children. The National Center for Farmworker Health estimates that between 180,000 and 800,000 agricultural workers in the United States are under 18 years of age and more than 300 of these children die each year in farming related accidents.In 2012 the United States Department of Labor tried to ban children under the age of 16 from operating any kind of power driven farm equipment, including tractors, and to prevent children under 18 from working in grain silos, feedlots or stockyards. This effort was rejected.Farms also enjoy special protection from workers compensation laws in Minnesota. Injured workers often have little or no recourse. There are, however, many successfully reported cases against equipment manufacturers whose farming equipment causes or contributes to injury due to poor design. The only way to determine if that is true in a particular case is to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney.

The Medical Records Rip-Off

Medical records are absolutely essential to someone like me if I am representing an injured person. The medical records often tell the tale of the extent of the injuries, the amount of the pain, etc. It is therefore almost impossible to represent someone adequately without obtaining copies of all of the medical records from all of the treatment received following the injury, and he usually copies of medical records going back at least five years before the injury in order to be able to compare the person's condition before and after the incident.When I started practicing law in the mid-1970s it was a fairly simple process to get copies of a client's medical records. A short letter to the medical provider along with a medical authorization form, and the records in question would be produced within a week or two, usually for a charge of between $.10 a page and $.25 a page, which at that time for some relationship to the actual cost of photocopying. However, commencing in the early 1980s companies called "records retrieval services" sprang up. They went to medical providers and entered into agreements with them saying that they were the exclusive source for copies of any medical records from that medical provider. Armed with these exclusive contracts they instantly began charging one dollar or more per page, plus a retrieval fee of $15-$18, plus sales tax, plus postage. It is important to note that no value was added. These are the exact same records that were being copied for $.10 a page before they claim along.Since that time, while the cost of photocopying has gone down dramatically, the price of getting copies of medical records has continued to escalate. Charges of $1.25 a page or not unusual. Because the client ins up paying for these costs out of their share of the settlement, this sort of nonsense easily costs clients hundreds, if not thousands of dollars in every case.Fortunately, the United States Department Of Health and Human Services has passed rules which took effect recently as part of the HIPAA and HITECH acts. These new rules and regulations prohibit medical providers or these records retrieval services from charging retrieval fee's or making a profit by selling patient's medical records back to the patient. They are now restricted to charging for the actual cost incurred in either making the photocopies or transferring the medical records on to a CD, DVD, or flash drive. And they can charge postage. All it takes to accomplish this is a letter from the patient, signed by the patient, directing that the records be copied in an electronic format and delivered to the patient's lawyer.These new rules and regulations will save injured people in Minnesota millions of dollars in the coming years.

CIVIL TRIAL SPECIALIST; IS IT A BIG DEAL?

Over the past couple of weeks the news media in the Twin Cities has been reporting on a trial taking place in federal court in Minneapolis involving Toyota and the issue of whether they are responsible for cases of uncontrollable acceleration on some of their vehicles. If you read the reports on the trial it sounds like any reasonably competent attorney could be representing the plaintiffs. Nothing could be further from the truth.Starting in the late 1970s it became apparent to the plaintiff's bar that finding a way to distinguish lawyers who make their living in the courtroom from lawyers who do not, was something that would benefit consumers. Accordingly, the National Board of Trial Advocacy (NBTA) was formed by some distinguished trial lawyers. They established criteria and standards which lawyers had to meet in order to be certified as Civil Trial Specialists. Not only did this require demonstrating a significant amount of actual trial experience, but it called for letters of recommendation from judges and opposing attorneys, as well as passage of a grueling day long examination.In 1987 I became the first lawyer in Anoka County to receive this certification, and I have been recertified multiple times over the ensuing years.One of the things that I do to give back to the profession is participate in something called case evaluation clinics at the Minnesota Association for Justice. In those clinics other lawyers bring in cases and a panel of three lawyers reviews them and offers advice on how best to proceed. Last Tuesday I participated in another one of these clinics and I was struck by the amount of assistance some lawyers need to handle complex cases. In the two cases that we reviewed that day, there were literally dozens of suggestions that were made by the panel which, in my opinion, should not have been necessary. The lawyers getting the advice were not Certified Civil Trial Specialists, yet they were retained by clients with significant injuries insignificant cases.Recently I've been asked to take over two cases which other law firms had handled for a while. After looking at the files it quickly became apparent to me that these other law firms were not qualified to do this kind of work in the first place.Consumers looking for a lawyer to represent them in a personal injury matter should look for lawyers who are Certified Trial Specialists. You wouldn't go to a family care physician for brain surgery, and likewise you shouldn't go to a family law lawyer for a personal injury matter, unless it is for a referral to a competent Certified Civil Trial Specialist.

Why Personal Injury Lawsuits Help Us All

In this morning's Star Tribune there was an article about a man named Greg Torell, who lives in Cambridge, Minnesota. Seven years ago, on June 12, 2007, he was at the hospital when his granddaughter Elizabeth was born. He held her for a while and then got on his motorcycle to go back home. 20 minutes later he was broadsided on Highway 47 by a drunk driver. He lost his left arm and his left leg as a result of the accident and was blinded for life.

"Is a Car Crash Ever an Accident?"

That was the title of a short article in today's Star Tribune (Metro section, B3). The article was written by a journalist who had written an article which appeared in the paper last week about this 11-year-old boy who was struck by a car as he crossed a busy St. Paul Street on his way to school. The first vehicle in line saw the little boy crossing the street and slowed so that he could cross safely. The driver behind that vehicle went around that vehicle on the left-hand side and hit the little boy who suffered a traumatic brain injury and still resides in the hospital.The journalist called that an "accident" and this prompted a twitter exchange between her and her reader on whether or not it would be proper to refer to this sort of thing as an "accident" because that connotes that this was some sort of the inevitable thing which could not have been prevented in the exercise of reasonable care. That is, of course, total nonsense.Virtually every single car crash is the result of a poor choice or a series of poor choices made by a driver.Most recently the Minnesota Department of Public Safety has moved away from using the word "accident" and now would like to refer to those as "crashes". A spokesman for the DPS is quoted in the article as saying: "Accident implies that what occurs is random and there is no way anyone could have prevented it,". He went on to say that there are choices we can make when we are behind the wheel - such as driving the speed limit and avoiding distractions like texting - which can help prevent tragedy.I would also add the following. Jury trials in personal injury cases arising out of car accidents serve at least two purposes, the first being to do the best we can, as a society, to compensate the injured person for what has been taken from them. The second thing is to deter conduct like this in the future, not only by the defendant or defendants in the case, but by other drivers as well. Today's small personal injury case may very well prevent tomorrow's drunk driving tragedy.

Latest Traffic Accident Statistics for Minnesota

In this morning's Star Tribune was a short article discussing the annual report on car crashes in Minnesota from 2013. Apparently some department at the state keeps track of this sort of thing and releases this report once a year. The statistics of interest are:1. 387 traffic fatalities in 2013, which was a slight drop from the 395 fatalities in 2012.2. Drunken-driving (95 deaths) and not wearing a seatbelt (94 deaths) were the two leading causes of fatalities.3. Speeding accounted for 76 deaths.4. Distracted driving led to 68 fatalities. In other words, texting while driving and doing other things other than paying attention to the road cost 68 Minnesotans their lives last year alone. Seriously, whatever it is, it can wait until you aren't driving.5. All told there were 77,707 reported crashes during the year. That's about 212 crashes every single day.6. More than 30,000 people were reported injured. This figure probably under estimates the total by a significant number. Many people state that they are not injured at the crash scene only to begin developing serious and sometimes disabling symptoms hours or days later.There is hope for the future. Mercedes-Benz and Hyundai, for example, now sell cars that come equipped with a crash avoidance system that detects when the car is approaching another object and then automatically applies the brakes if the driver doesn't. Once that system becomes standard equipment across the board, I would predict that traffic accidents will decrease by 50% or more.

NOT Hiring a Lawyer Can Be Expensive

Last week one of my fellow trial lawyers was sitting in court in Ramsey County waiting for his case to be called. Ahead of him on the docket was a case involving a little boy who was seriously injured in a car accident. He suffered a broken thumb and a nasty gash on his head which could still be seen through his hair a year after the crash. The little boy had no lawyer. His mother had agreed to a settlement with the insurance company for the driver responsible for the crash. The insurance company sent their lawyer, along with mom and the little boy, to court to get approval. Because there was no one representing the little boy the court went ahead and approved a $2500 settlement. In the opinion of my friend who was there, the case probably had a value of closer to $50,000.Once a deal like this is done, getting it undone is extremely difficult. The courts have little sympathy for parents who try to do this on their own.The thing that I was most concerned about when I read my friend's email was the possibility that this little boy might have some sort of minor traumatic brain injury as well as the visible gash on his head. Mild traumatic brain injury can be very subtle, but very disabling at the same time.A contractor I know puts the following at the bottom of his emails: "If you think it's expensive to hire a professional, try hiring an amateur." The quote is attributed to Red Adair, the famous Texan who made his living putting out the world's most dangerous oil well fires.