Personal Injury Updates

Information about Personal Injury in Washington State

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Monthly Archives: April 2012

Some Facts and Stats on Traumatic Brain Injury

Categories: Brain Injury

By Jacob W. Gent. Posted on .

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is a contributing factor to a substantial number of deaths and permanent disabilities each year.  A TBI is caused by a bump, blow, jolt or penetrating injury to the head.  The severity of a TBI may range from “mild” to “severe.”

There are an estimated 1.7 million TBI-related deaths, hospitalizations, and emergency department visits occur in the U.S. each year. Nearly 80% of these individuals are treated and released from an emergency department.  TBI is a contributing factor in one-third of all injury-related deaths in the United States, or about 52,000 deaths annually.[1]

TBI injuries result form a number of causes. Falls are the leading cause of TBI, resulting in over  520,00 TBI-related emergency department visits and 62,000 hospitalizations each year. TBI rates are highest for children aged 0 to 4 years and for adults aged 75 years and older.

Motor vehicle-related injuries are the leading cause of TBI-related deaths.  Motor vehicle–traffic injury rates are highest for adults aged 20 to 24 years.

According to data collected by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, there was a 14.4% increase in TBI-related emergency department visits and a 19.5% increase in TBI-related hospitalizations  between 2002 to 2006.  Emergency department visits for fall-related TBI saw a dramatic increase between 2002 and 2006. There was a 62% increase in fall-related TBI injuries for children 14 years and younger, and a 46% increase for adults aged 65 and older; 46%.  Hospitalization for fall-related TBI rose 34% while fall-related TBI deaths increased 27% from 2002 to 2006.

Direct medical costs and indirect costs of TBI, such as lost productivity, totaled an estimated $60 billion in the United States in 2000.

There are a few simple things everyone can do to reduce the risk of traumatic brain injury, including:

  1. Wearing a seat belt every time you drive or ride in a motor vehicle;
  2.  Never driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs;
  3. Wearing a helmet and making sure your children wear helmets when:
  • Riding a bicycle, motor cycle, snowmobile, scooter, or ATV;
  • Playing contact sports of any kind;
  • Using in-line skates or a skateboard;
  • Riding a horse;
  • Skiing or snowboarding.

4. Make living areas safer for infants and seniors by:

  • Removing tripping hazards such as throw rugs in walkways;
  • Placing  nonslip mats in the bathtub and on shower floors;
  • Installing grab bars in the tub or shower and next to the toilet;
  • Installing handrails on both sides of stairways; and
  • Improving lighting throughout the home.[2]

 


[1] CDC. Ambulatory Health Care Data.  http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/ahcd.htm

[2] http://www.cdc.gov/traumaticbraininjury/prevention.html

Traffic Citations and Personal Injury Lawsuits

Categories: Auto Accidents

By Arthur D. Leritz. Posted on .

If I am in an accident and the other driver gets a ticket, can I use that as evidence if I sue?

If you have ever caused a collision or been injured in a collision through the fault of someone else, this question has probably crossed your mind.  In most traffic collisions, the investigating officer typically issues a traffic citation to the at-fault driver at the scene.  Sometimes however, the facts are in dispute so the at-fault driver may not get a ticket at the scene, but may receive a citation in the mail at a later date.

If the at-fault driver is ticketed, the Supreme Court of Washington has held that evidence of the citation cannot be used in a later civil suit for personal injuries to prove fault. [1]  The public policy behind this decision is to prevent traffic courts from being overwhelmed with drivers who fear the broader implications if the citation is deemed committed.  If evidence of the citation was admissible to prove guilt in a later civil suit, there would be incentive for motorists to vigorously contest cases when only small or nominal damages were at stake, which would needlessly clog the traffic court system.

What do I do if I get a subpoena to testify at a contested citation hearing?

If you are injured in a collision and the at-fault driver is requesting a hearing to contest the citation, then you must respond to the subpoena and attend the hearing.  If you do not appear, the at-fault driver may get the citation overturned.  While this has no bearing on any later civil lawsuit for personal injuries, you should appear and provide testimony as to what occurred as it is your duty as a citizen to do so and you are required to comply with the subpoena.

In most instances, when you appear to testify the at-fault party may decide to admit the citation occurred and you will not need to testify.  If you do need to testify, it is a good idea to note the time when the hearing starts and ends –that way, you can order a copy of the transcript of the hearing.  Most municipal courtrooms are wired to record audio, and you can order the CD of the hearing for a small fee.  This is a good idea because while you cannot use the citation as evidence in a later suit for personal injuries, you can use the testimony of the at-fault party at the contested hearing in a later suit if the at-fault party decides to change his story.



[1] The case is Hadley v. Maxwell, 144 Wn.2d 306, 27 P.3d 600 (2001).

Settling Your Motor Vehicle Property Damage Claim After An Auto Collision

Categories: Auto Accidents, Personal Injury Resources

By Melissa D. Carter. Posted on .

Under the Insurance Fair Conduct Act (IFCA), your automobile insurance company must settle your vehicle damage claim in good faith.  Your insurer must:

  • make a good faith effort to communicate with the repair facility of your choice;
  • not arbitrarily deny your repair estimate;
  • not require you to travel unreasonably to obtain an estimate, repair your car or obtain a loaner car;
  • provide you with a copy of the estimate it prepares, or disclose reasons for denying your estimate;
  • provide a list of repair facilities within a reasonable distance of your principally garaged area;
  • consider any additional (related) damage the repair facility discovers during repairs;
  • limit deductions for betterment/depreciation to parts normally subject to repair and replacement during the life of your vehicle;
  • not recommend that you make a claim under your own collision coverage, if liability and damages are reasonably clear, solely to avoid paying claims under the liability insurance policy.[i]

If your vehicle is rendered a “total loss” after a collision, then your insurer must follow this established protocol:

  1. Replacing the loss vehicle: replace your vehicle with a comparable one that is available for inspection within a reasonable distance from where your vehicle is principally garaged.
  2. Cash settlement: based on the actual cash value of a comparable vehicle.
  3. Appraisal: resolve appraisal disputes per the policy terms.
  4. Settlement requirements: When settling a total loss vehicle per subsections (1) through (3) above, the insurer must:

a.  communicate its settlement offer to you by phone or in writing;

b.  base all offers on itemized and verifiable dollar amounts for vehicles that are currently available, or were available within ninety days of the collision, using appropriate deductions/additions for options, mileage or condition;

c.  consider relevant information supplied by you;

d.  provide you with a true and accurate copy of any “valuation report;”

e.  include all applicable taxes and fees.[ii]

Finally, your insurer shall not refuse to settle any property damage claim under your automobile policy based upon your refusal (or delay) in responding to your insurer’s demand that you submit to an independent medical examination in connection with your Personal Injury Protection (PIP) claim.

 



[i] WAC 284-30-390

[ii] WAC 284-30-391