Category: Traumatic Brain Injury

Brain Injury Awareness

headMarch has been Brain Injury Awareness month, however, just because the month is coming to a close doesn’t take away from the importance of taking care of your brain – it’s the only one you have.

The brain cannot regenerate itself.  When someone suffers a severe brain injury, the initial impact can be deadly.  However,  according to the Brain Injury Institute, if they survive,  progressive degeneration of the brain can continue during the hours, days, weeks and months that follow.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports these as the most common causes of brain injury:

  •  35 % from falls
  •  20 % from car accidents or truck accidents
  •  19% from impact with a moving object
  •  11% from attacks
  •  Other causes include sports injuries and shaking – “shaken baby syndrome”

Once your brain is injured, your life will never be the same. Your “thinking organ” can affect the way you act, feel, perceive and respond to others, including your family. It is important to understand, that although a personmay “look fine” on the outside, the brain injury may cause changes which affect their behavior. People who have suffered a TBI may display irritability, depression, apathy, anxiety, agitation, frustration; display a confrontational attitude and/or outbursts of anger; feelings of guilt and feelings of helplessness. They may become impatient, fearful or thoughtless, and have difficulty doing their usual routine or tasks. It can be most frustrating to families and friends because a person with TBI may have little to no awareness of just how different he or she is acting.

Several posts were written this month to assist you in learning more about brain injury and the important of using protection when possible, such as bicycle helmets.

Any traumatic brain injury is potentially catastrophic. Take care of your brain everyday.

Bill Daniels is a trial lawyer and shareholder with the law firm of DANIELS LAW in Sherman Oaks, CA.  A graduate of Loyola Law School of Los Angeles, he is a former member of the Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles Board of Governors, a founding member of Loyola’s Civil Justice Program and a past president of the Encino Lawyers Association.  Since 2007, he has been named a Southern California “Super Lawyer” by Los Angeles Magazine.  Mr. Daniels focuses his practice on serious personal injury, insurance and employment. For information, visit our website at www.daniels.legal or contact us through e-mail: Info@danielslaw.com.

 

Serious brain injury: life will never be the same

doger stadiumOne year after a brutal beating in the Dodger Stadium parking lot left San Francisco Giants fan Bryan Stow in a coma, the former paramedic who suffered severe brain injuries now uses a wheelchair. He can respond to questions with a few simple, halting words and  has short-term memory loss. He needs nearly around-the-clock care.

Dr. Mayumi Prins, an associate professor in residence at the UCLA Brain Injury Research Center studies how metabolism is affected after a brain injury. She said glucose sometimes has a tough time getting to the brain. She compared a normal brain to a Los Angeles freeway. “There are divergent pathways but one main pathway that allows glucose to go through,” she said. “With a traumatic brain injury, there are detours and SIG-alerts.”

Tyler Sutton, 38, crashed his motorcycle in December 1992, then fell into a coma. “I used to be No. 1 on the Oxnard High School golf team. I had three or four girlfriends,” the Camarillo man said. “Now I can’t tie a tie. I have to have Velcro on my shoes.” Formerly right-handed, he’s now left-handed. He has to keep his right foot from dragging. “Sometimes, people don’t understand.”

TBI affects all ages, all ethnic communities, and all professions, but is particularly prevalent in young children and older people where it is now the leading cause of death and disability. Among older people, falls are the primary cause of TBI, and among younger people, car crashes and sports injuries are significant contributors.

People are becoming more aware of brain trauma, but it’s important to continually educate yourself.

“Since anyone can sustain a brain injury at any time, it is important for everyone to have access to comprehensive rehabilitation and ongoing disease management,” Dr. Brent Masel, National Medical Director of the Brain Injury Association of America said. If patients with TBI get proper medical care, they are less likely to experience medical problems, permanent disability, job loss, homelessness, suicide and even involvement with the criminal or juvenile justice system. ”

Bill Daniels is a trial lawyer and shareholder with the law firm of DANIELS LAW in Sherman Oaks, CA.  A graduate of Loyola Law School of Los Angeles, he is a former member of the Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles Board of Governors, a founding member of Loyola’s Civil Justice Program and a past president of the Encino Lawyers Association.  Since 2007, he has been named a Southern California “Super Lawyer” by Los Angeles Magazine.  Mr. Daniels focuses his practice on serious personal injury, insurance and employment. For information, visit our website at www.daniels.legal or contact us through e-mail: Info@danielslaw.com.

A helmet keeps your head safer. Brain Injury Awareness month

woman who fell off bike
Wear a bike helmet!

Helmet fact: Did you know that once someone has a concussion, they are at higher risk for more concussions or other types of traumatic brain injury?  Be smart. Keep helmets on your kids, wear one yourself on a bicycle, while skating or riding a motorcycle.

In 2014, 242,931 children ages 19 and under were seen in emergency rooms for injuries related to riding bikes.  (Source:  Safe Kids Worldwide.)

Bicycle helmets offer bicyclists the best protection from head injuries resulting from bicycle crashes, and bicycle helmet laws have proved effective in increasing bicycle helmet use.

Motorcycle helmets provide the best protection from head injury for motorcyclists involved in traffic crashes.  Statistics tell us that helmets are 37 percent more effective in preventing motorcycle deaths and 67 percent more effective in preventing braining injuries.  (Source:  US Department of Transportation Fatality Reporting System.)

“Since anyone can sustain a brain injury at any time, it is important for everyone to have access to comprehensive rehabilitation and ongoing disease management,” Dr. Brent Masel, National Medical Director of the Brain Injury Association of America said. If patients with TBI get proper medical care, they are less likely to experience medical problems, permanent disability, job loss, homelessness, suicide and even involvement with the criminal or juvenile justice system. ”

Protect your brain! It’s the only one you’ll ever have!  Learn more.

Bill Daniels is a trial lawyer and shareholder with the law firm of DANIELS LAW in Sherman Oaks, CA.  A graduate of Loyola Law School of Los Angeles, he is a former member of the Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles Board of Governors, a founding member of Loyola’s Civil Justice Program and a past president of the Encino Lawyers Association.  Since 2007, he has been named a Southern California “Super Lawyer” by Los Angeles Magazine.  Mr. Daniels focuses his practice on serious personal injury, insurance and employment. For information, visit our website at www.daniels.legal or contact us through e-mail: Info@danielslaw.com.

Confusing Auto Insurance Policies Confound Drivers

woman confused
Confused about your policy? You’re not the only one.

According to an online Harris Interactive poll, reported by Insurance Networking News, confusing insurance policy wording makes auto insurance policies incomprehensible to 36% of American drivers.

The survey revealed that 87% of drivers who currently have auto insurance said they had read at least some of their auto insurance policies, but that 36% of those drivers complained that their auto insurance policies were somewhat or very difficult to understand.

Despite the fact that more than 30 states have enacted laws intended to simplify policy language, the online quote aggregator says that many consumers are confused by how their policies are written, and struggle to determine what’s covered and what’s not.

California Flag The irony with all this is, in California and many states, the law presumes that a consumer has read their insurance policy and understands its terms. I advise all my clients to read their policies as carefully as they can and then ask their broker/agent questions about the parts they don’t understand.

Not that this always helps. I have one case right now where the insured read their policy and thought they understood it, only to find out when their claim for a defense was denied that there was some case law the insurance company thought meant that the policy didn’t cover anything.

The truth is, right now the law favors insurance companies over consumers, so people need to watch their step and be very careful in buying and maintaining insurance.

And, yes, I read my own insurance policies and, no, I don’t understand everything I read, even though I litigate insurance disputes for a living.

What a world.

Bill Daniels is a trial lawyer and shareholder with the law firm of DANIELS LAW in Sherman Oaks, CA.  A graduate of Loyola Law School of Los Angeles, he is a former member of the Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles Board of Governors, a founding member of Loyola’s Civil Justice Program and a past president of the Encino Lawyers Association.  Since 2007, he has been named a Southern California “Super Lawyer” by Los Angeles Magazine.  Mr. Daniels focuses his practice on serious personal injury, insurance and employment. For information, visit our website at www.daniels.legal or contact us through e-mail: Info@danielslaw.com.

 

Understanding brain activity during personal injury trials

breakfast on tray
You need to fuel your body when you’re on a jury — jurors need proper food and water.

Whether you are a judge on the bench, a juror in the jury box or an attorney arguing the case, a personal injury trial takes a lot out of you.

What none of us usually take into account is, the human body has natural rhythms and patterns that affect our ability to absorb and process information that the courtroom process rarely take into account.

For example, it is well documented that stress causes the body to produce the hormone, cortisol, and that excess cortisol can interfere with the brain’s ability to create new memories.  (See this article on the Diurnal Cortisol Cycle.) At the same time, when the body produces increased amounts of the hormone dopamine, concentration levels rise.

When I’m training for a marathon, I make sure to wear a fuel belt with water, little carbohydrate gel paks and gatorade to replenish minerals and electrolytes that my body uses while running, because everyone understands that the human system, like a machine, needs replenishment to function in top form.

So, I’m always amazed that during trial, the jury usually isn’t provided much more in the way of fuel than the bailiff or courtroom attendant pointing out where the drinking fountain can be found and how snacks can be purchased on the second floor and in the rooftop cafeteria.

This is downright weird, when you think of it.  After all, trial is stressful on all the participants.  The jury especially is empowered as a democratic body to weigh facts and decide on a verdict, which is hands down the most important job in the process.  So, why don’t we take better care of our decision makers?

In the courtrooms where I practice, attorneys are usually permitted to bring in water bottles and can stash snacks in their bags if they are so inclined.  It’s always felt awkward to me to sip my cool water when I know the jury in the box isn’t provided with the same opportunity.

Note to self:  Propose that courtroom judges be asked to instruct jurors that they may bring food and drink, reasonably, into the box so they can help themselves stay alert.  Appropriate limits need to be set, say water or soft drinks for consumption during testimony, snacks available in the jury room during breaks.  Perhaps the attorneys can be asked to equally contribute to a fuel fund to save the state some financial burden.

Not all judges will allow for providing fuel for jurors, but some may.  I think most would be willing to let the jurors know they are in a stressful job and let them know, just like my marathon trainers tell their runners, that getting the most from the experience requires proper fuel.

 

Bill Daniels is a trial lawyer and shareholder with the law firm of DANIELS LAW in Sherman Oaks, CA.  A graduate of Loyola Law School of Los Angeles, he is a former member of the Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles Board of Governors, a founding member of Loyola’s Civil Justice Program and a past president of the Encino Lawyers Association.  Since 2007, he has been named a Southern California “Super Lawyer” by Los Angeles Magazine.  Mr. Daniels focuses his practice on serious personal injury, insurance and employment. For information, visit our website at www.daniels.legal or contact us through e-mail: Info@danielslaw.com.

Defective Product Litigation and Injury Lawsuits

On the surface, product liability would seem to be a pretty cut and dry area of the law and being a litigation attorney may not seem super exciting. I mean it all seems like common sense. Some manufacturer or seller creates or distributes a product, a consumer purchases it and is injured, or perhaps even dies as a result of using it and naturally the manufacturer is automatically responsible for said injury and attempts to make things right. However, this area of law has many pitfalls that await consumers who have been harmed and for the inexperienced personal injury attorneys who try these cases.

Filing a Product Liability Lawsuit

According to some estimates, injuries, deaths and property damage from defective and recalled products cost the public more than $500 billion each year. Recently, a man in San Jose was awarded a $9.8 million judgment in a product liability case involving a surgical stapler that caused him grave bodily harm. Thus, product liability cases, unfortunately, are not an insignificant part of the legal system. In this case, without the proper legal counsel as to the circumstances, criteria and time limits involved in filing suit in a personal injury claim for product liability,it could have ended even more tragically for this person. Knowing when to file a case is one of the first steps to succeeding in personal injury cases involving product liability. In the state of California, for example, an action must be brought within two years from the time when the injury occurred. Here are some other things to know when filing a personal injury claim involving a defective product:

Establishing liability in personal injury cases involving a defective product

There are four legal means for establishing liability in personal injury cases involving a defective product:

  • Negligence: This is when expected, reasonable care is not taken and an obligation to do so exists. Negligence can occur when defective partsor improper assembly result in some injury.
  • Breach of Warranty: This is when a seller fails to uphold a claim or promise regarding their product.
  • False Advertising: This is when a consumer is misled into believing that a product is safer than it actually is.
  • Strict Liability: This is when the manufacturer or seller of a defective product is responsible for all injuries occurring from the use of the product. This also means that everyone involved in the making of a consumer product is potentially liable for any personal injury that results from using the product.

Obviously, manufacturers and sellers never mean to harm consumers with the products they create or distribute. However, intent is irrelevant when you suffer an injury and are required to pay hospital bills or when a loved one is struck down through no fault of his or her own. How can you be made whole after you are harmed by faulty—even deadly—products? We are Daniels Law, a Hollywood law firm that specializes in all areas of personal injury including the very complicated area of product liability. We are familiar with all aspects of product liability and can inform you as to your time limits to file and the types of product defects (design, manufacturing errors and false advertising) there are. We know that the cost to life and limb in these cases can be inestimable.

Bill Daniels is a trial lawyer and shareholder with the law firm of DANIELS LAW in Sherman Oaks, CA.  A graduate of Loyola Law School of Los Angeles, he is a former member of the Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles Board of Governors, a founding member of Loyola’s Civil Justice Program and a past president of the Encino Lawyers Association.  Since 2007, he has been named a Southern California “Super Lawyer” by Los Angeles Magazine.  Mr. Daniels focuses his practice on serious personal injury, insurance and employment. For information, visit our website at www.daniels.legal or contact us through e-mail: Info@danielslaw.com.

California Personal Injury Law: The Basics

Personal injury is a much nuanced area of the law; in the state of California this is particularly so. However, even though many aspects of personal injury law vary from state to state, there are some commonalities. In general, all personal injury attorneys handle tort laws cases and provide legal representation to persons who claim to have been physically, psychologically, or financially injured due to the action of another person. These types of cases could involve anything from medical malpractice to defective products to bike and car accident, etc.

What are Personal Injuries?

In California, personal injuries are divided into three categories that determine whether the “threshold” has been met – Intentional, Negligence and Strict Liability. In cases of negligence, several things must be proven (1) a duty was owed to another, (2) that duty must have been breached in some way or another, (3) that breach must be both the actual and proximate cause of injury (4) there must be some degree of damages. Strict liability is where an individual is liable whether the conduct was intentional or negligent. Finally, intentional is where someone intended the injury that occurred

The Statute of Limitation

The statute of limitations for filing a personal injury claim in the state of California is two years. For medical malpractice the limit is three years. In California, if you believe you have a case it is crucial that you find a personal injury attorney in California who can advise you as to your rights. If you have waited too long to file, it could mean the end of your case before it even begins.

Injury and Damage Limits

Damages awarded to victims of personal injuries in California fall into two basic categories – economic damages and non-economic damages. Economic damages are out-of-pocket damages that can be documented such as medical bills, medical expenses, car repair bills, etc. On the other hand, non-economic damages are of an intangible nature. This covers things like pain and suffering, inconvenience, etc.

Before you hire an attorney, make sure that he/she is familiar with the applicable laws in your state. At Daniels Law you can retain the best California litigation attorney to familiarize you with all aspects of personal injury law in California. Our offices can provide you with a Los Angeles attorney who has the necessary knowledge and skills that could mean the difference between winning and losing or even getting your case to court.

 

Bill Daniels is a trial lawyer and shareholder with the law firm of DANIELS LAW in Sherman Oaks, CA.  A graduate of Loyola Law School of Los Angeles, he is a former member of the Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles Board of Governors, a founding member of Loyola’s Civil Justice Program and a past president of the Encino Lawyers Association.  Since 2007, he has been named a Southern California “Super Lawyer” by Los Angeles Magazine.  Mr. Daniels focuses his practice on serious personal injury, insurance and employment. For information, visit our website at www.daniels.legal or contact us through e-mail: Info@danielslaw.com.

 

Dead or Alive – the untold story of Jahi McMath and the law

Largely undebated in the Jahi McMath story is how the medical establishment benefits if the 13-year-old California child is found dead rather than alive.

Jahi McMath was in California when she underwent a routine tonsillectomy at Children’s Hospital in Oakland. She woke up after surgery, began bleeding and eventually went into cardiac arrest. A coroner issued a death certificate dated December 12 after testing indicated Jahi is brain dead. Only, Jahi is on life support. She is still breathing. Her heart is still beating.

Jahi’s body may be kept alive indefinitely. Her family clings to slender hope. Doctors and ethicists debate where life ends and death begins.

That is the human story. Let’s look at the legal.

In California, the medical profession is protected from civil lawsuits by a 1970’s vintage law known as the Medical Injury Compensation Act of 1975 (MICRA).

Under MICRA, if the McMath family pursues a medical negligence lawsuit against Children’s Hospital and the doctors who treated Jahi, they can recover no more than $250,000 in what are known as “general damages,” what lay people know as pain and suffering.

Special damages, things like medical expenses, do not have a cap.

So, here is how it works.

If Jahi McMath is truly dead and died because of medical mishap, then the most her lost life is worth in a courtroom is $250,000, plus reasonable medical expenses after the surgery (probably not all that much), less attorney fees and legal costs.

If Jahi McMath is alive and living on life support because of medical negligence, then her life is worth the $250,000 in pain and suffering, plus medical expenses after the surgery of as much as $7,500 per day. (The later amount comes from Dr. Art Caplan, head of the Division of Medical Ethics at NYU Langone Medical Center, as quoted in a recent NBC News story.)

California’s Judicial Council publishes a life expectancy chart in its jury instruction books that give Jahi another 69.2 years to live. If she reaches that normal life expectancy – not likely given her incapacity, but not impossible either – then at $7,500 per day, her medical expenses can be projected to total $2,737,500 per year, or $189,435,000 over 69.2 years, using simple arithmetic.

So, alive, Children’s Hospital and Jahi’s doctors could be looking at a verdict of around $190 million, give or take.

Not that the doctors and hospital have that much insurance.

In other words Jahi McMath’s doctors and Children’s Hospital have a significant financial interest in persuading the world that Jahi is dead and cannot ever recover regardless of any advance in medical technology or the hand of God.

This is not to cast aspersions on anyone’s integrity or assign bad motives. It is simply a fact.

Old western wanted posters made no distinction between bringing in outlaws “dead or alive.”

California’s modern legal system prefers patients who are dead.

Click here for an article from January 2017 for an update on the case

Bill Daniels is a trial lawyer and shareholder with the law firm of DANIELS LAW in Sherman Oaks, CA.  A graduate of Loyola Law School of Los Angeles, he is a former member of the Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles Board of Governors, a founding member of Loyola’s Civil Justice Program and a past president of the Encino Lawyers Association.  Since 2007, he has been named a Southern California “Super Lawyer” by Los Angeles Magazine.  Mr. Daniels focuses his practice on serious personal injury, insurance and employment. For information, visit our website at www.daniels.legal or contact us through e-mail: Info@danielslaw.com.

Gabby Giffords: Finding Words Through Song‏

According to ABC News, in the 10 months since a bullet to the brain left her in critical condition, Congresswoman Gabby Giffords has relearned how to talk — a feat partly credited to music therapy.

Giffords suffered from aphasia — the inability to speak because of damage to the language pathways in her brain’s left hemisphere. But by layering words on top of melody and rhythm, she trained her brain to use a less-traveled pathway to the same destination.

“Music is that other road to get back to language,” said Meaghan Morrow, Giffords’ music therapist and a certified brain injury specialist at TIRR Memorial Hermann Rehabilitation Hospital in Houston. Morrow compared the process to a freeway detour. “You aren’t able to go forward on that pathway anymore,” she said, but “you can exit and go around, and get to where you need to go.”

According to Dr. Gottfried Schlaug, associate professor of neurology and director of the Music and Neuroimaging Laboratory at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School: “The brain’s ability to pave new pathways around damaged areas is called neuroplasticity. An adult can relearn to speak — with the right training and a lot of practice.”able to go forward on that pathway anymore,” she said, but “you can exit and go around, and get to where you need to go.”

Read more about this on ABCNews.com

Bill Daniels is a trial lawyer and shareholder with the law firm of DANIELS LAW in Sherman Oaks, CA.  A graduate of Loyola Law School of Los Angeles, he is a former member of the Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles Board of Governors, a founding member of Loyola’s Civil Justice Program and a past president of the Encino Lawyers Association.  Since 2007, he has been named a Southern California “Super Lawyer” by Los Angeles Magazine.  Mr. Daniels focuses his practice on serious personal injury, insurance and employment. For information, visit our website at www.daniels.legal or contact us through e-mail: Info@danielslaw.com.
 

Depression following Traumatic Brain Injury

One thing that I see over and over in my personal injury practice is depression following traumatic brain injury or TBI. The fact is, about half of the people suffering a TBI experience depression within the first year following the injury; that number rises to nearly two-thirds within seven years.

Depression symptoms include things like feeling down or hopeless, losing interest in usual activities, difficulty sleeping or concentrating, as well as thoughts of death or suicide.

Scientists point to different factors that contribute to depression after TBI, such as physical changes to the brain due to trauma, emotional responses to injury or factors that are unrelated to the injury, but that make the person more likely to experience depression, things like inherited genes, personal or family history, or other factors.

The bottom line? If you have depression symptoms, seek professional help from a qualified health care professional. Depression isn’t a sign of weakness and its not your fault. Don’t be afraid to seek the care you need.

Bill Daniels is a trial lawyer and shareholder with the law firm of DANIELS LAW in Sherman Oaks, CA.  A graduate of Loyola Law School of Los Angeles, he is a former member of the Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles Board of Governors, a founding member of Loyola’s Civil Justice Program and a past president of the Encino Lawyers Association.  Since 2007, he has been named a Southern California “Super Lawyer” by Los Angeles Magazine.  Mr. Daniels focuses his practice on serious personal injury, insurance and employment. For information, visit our website at www.daniels.legal or contact us through e-mail: Info@danielslaw.com.