Personal Injury Updates

Information about Personal Injury in Washington State

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Yearly Archives: 2012

Bicycle Safety Tips For Your Child

Categories: Bicycle Injury

By Melissa D. Carter. Posted on .

Bicycle friendly cities like Seattle see die-hard cyclists that proudly brave the wind and rain in the dark days of winter.  With summer finally here, though, the cyclists hitting the street increases dramatically, as does the risk for bicycle collisions.   This risk is even greater with children, who are less capable of making quick decisions and are less visible to motorists.   Here are some tips on bicycle safety and children.

A Properly Fitted Helmet Can Save A Life

Helmets protect your biggest asset: your brain.  A cheap investment in a helmet can save your child’s life, but take the time to ensure that the helmet fits properly.  Per the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), following these easy steps will help you fit and wear your helmet to maximum safety:

Step 1[1]: Size.  Measure your child’s head for approximate size.  Try the helmet on for a snug fit.  While the helmet sits flat on the top of the head, make sure that the helmet doesn’t rock from side to side.  In your child’s helmet, remove the padding when your child’s head grows.   Remember to select a helmet that fits your child’s head now, not one to “grow into.”

Step 2: Position.  The helmet should sit level on the top of your head and low on the forehead; one to two fingers above the eyebrow.  The helmet must cover the forehead.

Step 3: Buckles: Center the buckle under the chin.  Tighten for snugness so no more than one finger can fit under the strap.

Step 4: Side Straps: Adjust the straps on both sides to form a “V” under and in front of the ears.  Lock the slider.

Step 5: Final Fitting: Open your mouth wide: does the helmet pull down?  If not, tighten the chin strap.  Make sure the helmet does not rock back and forth or forward into the eyes.  If so, re-adjust the side straps and chin strap.

Also, be sure to replace a helmet whenever it has been involved in a crash, even if it appears unharmed.

Helpful Safety Tips

Before your child‘s feet hit the pedals, check the equipment to ensure that the tires are properly inflated and that the brakes work.  Make sure that your child wears bright, neon or fluorescent colors while riding (day or night) to increase visibility.  Consider installing light reflectors on the bike and helmet.  Even with these precautions, a child should avoid riding at night at all times.

Per the NHSTA, the safest place for adults to ride is on the street, following the same rules of the road as motorists.  Washington law requires that bicyclists always ride with the flow of traffic.[2]  However, children under 10 years old are not mature enough to make decisions necessary to ride safely in the street.  Children under 10 are much better off riding on the sidewalk.  When riding on the sidewalk, a bicycle rider has all of the rights and responsibilities of any pedestrian.[3]  Have a discussion with your children about alerting nearby pedestrians on sidewalks that they are approaching, watching for vehicles exiting driveways, and entering the street at corners, instead of between parked cars.   A bell or horn can be a very helpful tool for your child’s bike, as well a fun one, too.

 

 



[1] Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute: www.danscomp.com/products/charts/helmetchart.html

[2] RCW 46.61.100.

[3] RCW 46.61.755

Distracted Driving: Teens Aren't the Only Culprits

Categories: Auto Accidents

By Jacob W. Gent. Posted on .

Who are the most distracted drivers?  You might be surprised.  According to a recent poll, college educated and higher income drivers scored highest in almost every category of “distracted” driving.  Poll statistics indicate ninety-three percent of drivers engaging in some form of distracted driving, whether by it is texting, talking on a cell phone, or eating behind the wheel.  Four in 10 licensed motorists admit that driving while distracted has caused them to swerve into another lane, slam on the brakes, narrowly avoid an accident, or being involved in a motor vehicle collision.   This number rose to 49% for drivers with college degrees and 43% for drivers earning more than $75,000 per year.

Drivers with higher education and/or income levels scored highest in almost every “distracted” category of the poll:

  • 41% of well-educated drivers and 35% of high-income drivers say they’ve swerved out of their lane as a result of distracted driving, versus 32% of all drivers polled.
  • 37% of drivers with a college degree and 33% in the highest income bracket report slamming on their brakes because of distractions, compared with 29% of all motorists polled.
  • 26% of well-educated drivers and 22% of higher income drivers reported distracted driving caused them to nearly get into an accident, compared with 18% of all drivers polled.
  • 22% of well-educated drivers and 18% of high-income drivers admit they’ve been ticketed for distracted driving, compared to 12% of all drivers polled.
  • 20% of well-educated drivers and 16% of well-off drivers say they’ve been involved in a minor accident because of distracted driving, compared with 11% of all motorists polled.
  • 17% of well-educated motorists and 13% of high-income drivers have been in a serious accident as a result of distracted driving, versus 8% of all drivers polled.

Music and food cause of most of the driving distractions:

  •  92% of highly educated drivers and 95% of high-income drivers say they’ve adjusted a radio, CD player or iPod while driving, compared to 87% of all adult drivers polled.
  • 83% of highly educated and high-income drivers admit tp eating behind the wheel, compared with 77% of all respondents.
  • 80% of highly educated drivers and 85% of high-income drivers say they’ve used a cell phone while driving, compared to 74% for all drivers.
  • 39% of highly educated drivers and high-income drivers admit to kissing or engaging in other romantic physical contact while driving, compared to 29% of all drivers who acknowledge being amorous behind the wheel.
  • 33% of highly educated and high-income drivers say they’ve read while driving, versus 20% of all drivers polled.

Please do your part to keep the roads safe by recognizing and eliminating your own dangerous driving habits and encouraging others to do the same.

National Athletic Trainers Association's (NATA) Annual Meeting

Categories: Events

By Richard H. Adler. Posted on .

This week is the 63rd National Athletic Trainers’ Association Annual Meeting and Clinical Symposia in St. Louis, Missouri.  I am invited to present a mock trial demonstration of an athlete that suffered catastrophic traumatic brain injuries because of sports-related concussions  that were not properly managed on the sidelines or in the exam room.   Following the mock trial I will join a panel of the nation’s leading medical and neuropsychological experts to debrief on the medical-legal issues regarding  concussion management.

In addition to this presentation, I will also participate in the NATA’s formal press/media release on “Preventing Sudden Death in Collegiate Conditioning Sessions.”  Since 2000, 21 National Collegiate Athletic Association football players have died from cardio-vascular events as a result of full-intensity workouts.  My role will provide insight to the legal issues for athletic trainers, doctors, coaches, school administrator on the importance of proper standards of care to prevent preventable traumatic brain injuries and other preventable traumatic medical events.

For more information regarding the new guidelines, visit www.nata.org.

Unintentional Injury is the Leading Cause of Death for Kids in the U.S.

Categories: Other Physical Injuries

By Arthur D. Leritz. Posted on .

The CDC recently came out with a study that found that unintentional injuries are the leading cause of death for kids aged 1-19 years. [1]  The CDC analyzed mortality data from 2000 – 2009 from the National Vital Statistics System by age group, sex, race/ethnicity, injury mechanism and state.  The study contained data that is both alarming and encouraging:

  • From 2000 to 2009, the overall annual unintentional injury death rate decreased 29%
  • The rate decreased among all age groups except newborns and infants aged <1 year; in this age group, rates increased from 23.1 to 27.7 per 100,000 primarily as a result of an increase in reported suffocations
  • The poisoning death rate among teens aged 15–19 years nearly doubled, from 1.7 to 3.3 per 100,000, in part because of an increase in prescription drug overdoses
  • Childhood motor vehicle traffic–related death rates declined 41%; however, these deaths remain the leading cause of unintentional injury death in age groups 5–19 years, accounting for 67% of unintentional injury deaths and 28% of deaths from all causes among those aged 15–19 years in 2009
  • Drowning, other transportation, fire/burn, fall, and all other unintentional injuries also showed significant linear declines, whereas both suffocation and poisoning showed significant linear increases (30% and 80%, respectively)
  • Mississippi had the highest unintentional death rate for kids aged 1-19 in 2009, with 25.1 deaths per 100,000, more than twice the national average
  • Massachusetts  had the lowest unintentional death rate for kids aged 1-19 in 2009, with 4.0 deaths per 100,000
  • Delaware had the biggest decrease – its overall unintentional injury death rate decreased 51% from 2000-2009[2]

According to the CDC, unintentional injuries occurring in 2005 that resulted in death, hospitalization, or an emergency department visit cost nearly $11.5 billion in medical expenses.[3] The study also found that these injuries are preventable and effective interventions for reducing childhood injuries are less costly than the medical expenses and productivity losses associated with those injuries.[4]



[1] http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm61e0416a1.htm?s_cid=rss_injury411

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

National Summit on Sports Concussion

Categories: Brain Injury

By Richard H. Adler. Posted on .

The 6th Annual National Summit on Sports Concussion & Other Athletic Injuries: Established and Emerging Science for Return-to-Play takes place on June 22, 2012 in Los Angeles, CA.  I am pleased to be an invited speaker on few topics including “Mandating Player Safety by Increased Accountability for Non-Compliance on the Sidelines and Exam Room” and demonstrating a “Cross Examination in a Concussion Case”.   The Summit will draw from top leaders in sports concussion evaluation, treatment, and research.  Medical specialists, research scientists, legal advocates and those that work in the insurance world are scheduled to speak as well.  It will be a day of collaboration to help prevent preventable brain trauma and make sports safer and fun for all ages, particularly youth athletes.  For more information, please visit the Sports Concussion Institute’s website.

Sports Concussion Institute

I Was Hurt Due to the Negligence of a State Worker – What Do I Do?

Categories: Premise/Slip and Fall

By Arthur D. Leritz. Posted on .

Did you know that a governmental body can only act, and thus be negligent, through its employees?[1]  Like the federal government prior to 1946, the State of Washington was immune from tort liability prior to 1961.  In that year the legislature enacted the Tort Claims Act, permitting claims against the state.[2]  The Washington Supreme Court has stated that the waiver of sovereign immunity “functions as a promise that the State and its agents will use reasonable care while performing its duties at the risk of incurring liability.”[3]  Immunity for the state’s political subdivisions and for municipalities was eliminated in 1967,[4] subject to certain conditions.  As a result, state agencies and municipalities are subject to liability for damages arising out of their tortious conduct in much the same manner as a private person or corporation.

To assert a negligence claim against the state, the injured party must show that the state’s conduct would be actionable if it were done by a private person in a private setting. If the injured party would have no cause of action against a private person for the same conduct, then he or she has no cause of action against the state.[5]

In order to prosecute an action against the state for the negligence of a state employee, an injured party must first file a claim with the state’s risk management office.  Until the claim is presented and filed, the injured party cannot commence a lawsuit against the state.  The applicable statute of limitations is not affected by the claim presentment and filing requirement. Instead, the applicable statute of limitations begins, and continues to run, as if no claim had been presented.

A claim presented to the state should be signed and accurately describe the conduct and circumstances leading to the injury or damage. The claim shall also include:

  1. A description of the injury or damage;
  2. State the time and place the injury or damage occurred;
  3. Sate the names of all known persons involved;
  4. Include a statement of the amount of damages claimed; and
  5. Include a statement of the actual residence of the claimant at the time of presenting the claim and for the six months immediately prior to the time the claim arose.

A similar claim-filing requirement is typically imposed by political subdivisions and municipalities.  Where a claim-filing requirement has been adopted, a properly filed claim is a precondition to filing a lawsuit.  If the injured party waits until shortly before the expiration of the statute of limitations to file an action, but has not observed the sixty-day waiting period, the claim may be barred.



[1] RCW 4.92.090.

[2] Ibid.

[4] RCW 4.96.010.

Concussion and Girls Youth Soccer

Categories: Brain Injury

By Jacob W. Gent. Posted on .

Concussion strikes not only male football players, but athletes of both sexes in almost every sport.  Youth soccer has become increasingly popular over the past several years, and more girls are playing the game than ever before.  Currently, girls make up 48 percent of the more than 3 million soccer player registered in US Youth Soccer leagues.

Hundreds of girls across America suffer concussions while playing soccer each year.  “People who think of concussions as only being present mostly in guys and mostly in the sport of football are just plain wrong,  Soccer is right at the top of the list for girls.” Robert Cantu, MD, Chief of  Neurosurgical Service and Director Service of Sports Medicine at Emerson Hospital in Concord, MA, stated recently in a recent Rock Center with Brian Williams report.  According to Cantu, the country is in the middle of a “concussion crisis” with girls reporting almost twice the number of concussions as boys in sports played by both sexes.

Girls soccer has the second highest rate of reported concussions in young athletes according to another recent study in The American Journal of Sports Medicine.  Heading in soccer is a major cause of concussion.   When heading, players use their head to direct an airborne ball, often jumping in a group, which can cause collisions between players, strained necks, and banged heads.

Dr. Cantu says that the act of heading is one of the most dangerous parts of soccer and has recommended heading be eliminated from youth soccer under the age of 14. He also stated girls are more susceptible to concussion as a result of their anatomy.  “Girls as a group have far weaker necks.  The same force delivered to a girl’s head spins the head much more because of the weak neck than it does the guys.”

“What’s happening in this country is an epidemic of concussions, number one, and the realization that many of these individuals are going to go on to post-concussion syndrome, which can alter their ability to function at a high level for the rest of their lives,” Dr. Cantu said.

Concussion crisis growing in girls’ soccer – Rock Center with Brian Williams

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

1. http://rockcenter.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/05/09/11604307-concussion-crisis growing-in-girls-soccer?lite

2. Trends in Concussion Incidence in High School Sports, Andrew E. Lincoln, ScD, et al, American Journal of Sports Medicine, January 2011, Vol. XX, No. X.

3.  Epidemiology of Concussions Among United States High School Athletes in 20 Sports, Mallika Marar, et al, The American Journal of Sports Medicine, April 2012, Vol. 40, No. 4.

The Zackery Lystedt Law – Three Year Anniversary Update

Categories: Brain Injury

By Richard H. Adler. Posted on .

Its been almost three years since Washington State Governor Christine Gregoire signed the first-in-the-nation law protecting youth athletes and concussion by removing the child from a game or practice after a concussion and requiring medical clearance by a licensed healthcare provider.  The law was named after Zackery Lystedt.  Since that day, the three key components of the Zackery Lystedt Law are now law in 36 states (most recently Hawaii and Florida) and the District of Columbia.  Since 2009, the Lystedt Family continue to spread their message to ensure that all youth athletes are protected from experiencing the same tragedy by preventing preventable brain injuries.  Richard H. Adler, as Chairman of the Brain Injury Association of Washington has worked with many other coalition partners, including Stan Herring, MD (UW Medicine/Seattle Seahawks Team Physician), over the last three years have with countless Monday lunch phone conferences, presentations, and traveling to deliver the message, “when in doubt, sit them out.”

USA Football reported on the Zackery Lystedt Law, three years later.  Click here to read the full article.

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).