Personal Injury Updates

Information about Personal Injury in Washington State

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Monthly Archives: April 2013

Does An Upright MRI Make Sense For You?

Categories: Spine Injury

By Steven J. Angles. Posted on .

If you suffer an injury, your treating doctors may refer you for an MRI (“Magnetic Resonance Imaging”) to see whether there is any damage to your organs, spinal discs, or soft tissues that may not be visible on X-ray films.  So what can you expect? Before the scan can begin, you will be asked to remove all metal, jewelry, watches, hair clips, or similar items prior to the scan. Your technician will ask about any prior surgeries or metal implants you have had undergone previously.  When the testing begins, you will be asked to lay flat on a patient table which will slide some or all of your body into the tube-like cylinder of the MRI scanner.  Once the scan begins, super cooled electric coils will generate a powerful magnetic field which, combined with radio waves, will show the location and appearance of your soft tissue and fluids.

For its many benefits, having an MRI scan can be uncomfortable to one degree or another.  You might feel claustrophobia while lying inside the machine.  Your body type may not allow you to lie comfortably and still inside the scanner for the duration of the scan.  You might find the knocking sound inside the scanner tube unpleasant (even if you have headphones with music playing).  More importantly, in the case of spinal injuries, the “traditional” MRI may not accurately show imaging in the position in which you actually feel pain.   For these reasons, you may benefit from an open upright MRI. Upright MRI

First developed in 1996[1], the open upright MRI (a.k.a. “Stand-Up” MRI) can effectively solve many of the concerns that patients experience in these procedures.  In an open upright MRI, a patient walks between two large magnetic imaging devices and either stands, or they can sit in a chair that raises or lowers their body into the proper position.  The front and top of the machine are open.   The scan typically takes less time than a traditional MRI, and patients might even be able to watch T.V. during the procedure.   In many instances, the scans are less expensive than traditional MRIs.   But the greatest benefit it offers is the opportunity to recreate the body positions that patients might feel pain, revealing causes of injury that might be undetected on recumbent MRI scanners.   For example, if you typically experience neck or back pain while sitting or standing, your scan will take place while your spine has the same weight and gravity it would normally have when you most feel your symptoms.  As a result, the scans may show where your spinal discs are compressed or injured in a way that a horizontal MRI might not show as well.

Of course, you will need to consult with your medical provider before deciding on an upright MRI, as there can be drawbacks specific to your situation.  Typically, traditional recumbent MRIs have a higher “field strength” or power to their magnets, resulting in clearer MRI results that show greater detail.  You definitely want your doctor to have the best quality scans possible in order to provide the best evidence of your injuries.  Some insurance plans do not cover upright MRIs.  Upright MRI machines are not yet as common as traditional scanners, so it may harder for you to locate one that fits your needs.   Lastly, your particular symptoms might be best represented while lying down for a scan, particularly if your pain is greatest in that position (i.e. while sleeping).



Teen fatalities involving teen drivers decreased between 2008-2011

Categories: Auto Accidents

By Jacob W. Gent. Posted on .

Teen DrivingA new national safety study released in April 2013 reported teen driver-related fatalities have dropped by almost 50% over the last six years.  The number of teen passengers killed in crashes involving teen drivers fell 30 percent in the United States from 2008 to 2011.

The joint report by the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) and State Farm Insurance showed positive news in that 54 percent of teen passengers reported that they always used seat belts.  Other encouraging trends among teen passengers between 2008 and 2011 included:

  • A decline in the risky behaviors of teen passengers, ages 15 to 19.
  • The number of teen passengers killed in crashes and who were not wearing seat belts fell 23 percent.
  • The number of teen passengers killed in crashes where a teen driver had been drinking dropped 14 percent.

Despite the progress outlined in the study, a number of risky behaviors remain serious problems. These include texting or emailing while driving, drinking and driving, and low levels of seat belt use.

The study found that one-third of teens admitted to texting or emailing while driving. Speeding was a factor in more than 50% of fatal crashes involving teen drivers in 2011, similar to 2008.  The number of teens who died in crashes and had a blood alcohol level higher than 0.01 rose from 38 percent in 2008 to 41 percent in 2011.

The study cited a number of key areas that have the greatest potential to reduce teen traffic crashes and deaths, including reducing distractions from passengers and technology; improving skills in scanning, hazard detection and speed management; and increasing seat belt use.

The study, called “Miles to go: Focusing on Risks for Teen Driver Crashes,” is the third in an annual series.

SOURCE: Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, news release, April 4, 2013

Washington’s Coalition to Reduce Underage Drinking Continues the Fight

Categories: Auto Accidents, Personal Injury Resources

By Richard H. Adler. Posted on .

I had the distinct privilege and honor to attend the monthly meeting of Washington’s Coalition to Reduce Underage Drinking (RUaD) this last Friday in Olympia.  A special guest was State Rep Roger Goodman and he presented for an hour talking about DUI legislation.  I was seated between Amy Ezzo, Washington’s Director for MADD and a representative from the Washington State Patrol.  Around the room were various representatives from the liquor control board, DSHS, the Attorney General’s office, as well as various other representatives of state agencies.  It was truly inspiring to be amongst these talented individuals, all of whom are working together to reduce underage drinking in the state.

RUaD has been working tirelessly to raise awareness and support legislation that targets underage drinking since its inception in 1998.  Here are some alarming facts pulled from the RUaD website on students and drinking:

  1. 40% of 12th graders reported having a drink in the last month.
  2. 23% of 12th graders reported riding in a car with a driver who had been drinking.
  3. 12% of 12th graders reported driving a car after they had been drinking.
  4. 19% of 12th graders reported drinking 3 or more days in the past month.
  5. 25% of 12th graders reported drinking 5 or more drinks at least once in the past two weeks.
  6. 36% of 12th graders reported getting alcohol from friends, 31% reported getting alcohol at a party and 19% reported giving money to someone to buy alcohol for them.

Now, for the good news:  parents are the #1 influence on their kids on this issue.  So, it is important to keep this dialogue with your kids current, as the percent of kids who think you would catch them if they drank alcohol dropped from 72% in 8th grade to 37% in 12th grade.

For more information about underage drinking, go to their website at

Low-Pressure Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Reveals Promising Results for Soldiers with Blast Injuries

Categories: Brain Injury

By Arthur D. Leritz. Posted on .

Tragically, blast induced TBI and PTSD have been dramatically on the rise since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  A recent Rand Report estimated that 18.3% of military service personnel deployed to these war zones have PTSD or major depression, and 19.5% have experienced a TBI.

Hyperbaric Chamber

A 2012 study on the safety and efficacy of hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) in military subjects with chronic blast-induced mild to moderate traumatic brain injury (TBI), post concussive syndrome  (PCS) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) indicated that several symptoms were reduced by undergoing this therapy.[1]    HBOT is a medical treatment that uses greater than ambient pressure oxygen as a drug by fully enclosing an individual in a pressure vessel and then adjusting the dose of the oxygen to treat pathophysiologic processes of diseases.

The study was done with 16 participants, all male, with the average age of 30.  All subjects were either active duty military or recently discharged active military.  All of the participants had sustained at least one brain injury.  Fourteen of the subjects had a pre-study diagnosis of TBI/PCS with PTSD, and two of the subjects had TBI/PCS.

Treatment for the subjects during the study consisted of 2 HBOT sessions, twice a day, 5 days a week.  Each HBOT session lasted 60 minutes.  Participants completed 40 HBOT sessions in total.  At the end of the study, 12 of the 15 subjects reported improvement in their symptoms.  Short temper/irritability, mood swings, imbalance, photophobia and depression, which were present in a majority of the subjects, were improved 44-93%.  Additionally, 64% of the subjects who were on psychoactive or analgesic prescription medication before HBOT decreased or discontinued their medication during the study.  Of those participants who noted improvement in their symptoms following the study, 92% still reported improvement six months after the study.  Sixty four percent of the subjects on psychoactive and narcotic prescription medications were able to decrease or eliminate the use of these medications.

While this was just a small test group, the results seem promising and I am sure more research and study will be occurring in the years and months ahead.

[1] Harch PG, Andrews SR, Fogarty EF, Amen D, Pezzullo JC, Lucarini J, Aubrey C, Taylor DV, Staab PK, Van Meter KW, “A phase I study of low-pressure hyperbaric oxygen therapy for blast-induced post-concussion syndrome and post-traumatic stress disorder.” J Neurotrauma. 2012 Jan 1;29(1):168-85. doi: 10.1089/neu.2011.1895. Epub 2011 Nov 22.

Big Considerations are Needed When Driving Micro Cars

Categories: Auto Accidents

By Steven J. Angles. Posted on .

For me, watching motorists drive in some European cities can be amazing and frightening at the same time.  Drivers are not only darting in and out of narrow streets, but they do so in heavy traffic near dense crowds of pedestrians.  For many Europeans, the car of choice is the so-called “micro car” that fits so well into the European lifestyle.  These tiny cars usually only fit two occupants and are designed without any back seat or real trunk.  However, they also make parking a snap and keep fuel costs low.

Over the past 5 years, we’ve all seen how many of these micro cars have made their way to U.S. roads.  In Washington State in particular, it’s hard for me to drive for more than a few minutes without seeing at least one micro car zipping by or neatly parked in a busy downtown area. It’s easy to see why, too: these cars cost less to buy, to insure, to fuel up, and owners can remain environmentally friendly while still enjoying the unique look of their rides. More recently, I’ve noticed how micro-cars are becoming the vehicle of choice for car-sharing services that allow customers to pay to drive “a la carte.”Smart Fourtwo Passion Coupe parked in driveway

But how well do these car translate into driving on this side of the Atlantic?  It turns out that despite some favorable crash-test results, how well these cars fare in a crash has largely to do with what the other person is driving, the point of impact, and where the crash takes place.   For example, a 2008 study conducted by the Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) concluded that the popular Smart Car For Two rated highly when it came to protecting occupants in front and side crashes.[1] Despite having less size to absorb the energy from a crash, the vehicle’s structure, airbags, and restraints were designed to help occupants “ride down” an impact as much as possible. [2]

However, it’s important to note that even the IIHS conceded that “all things being equal in safety, bigger and heavier is always better,” and that front-end crash tests were only done with vehicles with similar size and weight. Many cars in the micro class rate below average when it comes to overall protection from the common rear-end collision, due in part to the height difference in bumpers with other vehicles, particularly SUVs and trucks.  The IIHS also indicated the risk of death is higher in crashes of smaller, lighter vehicles. For vehicles 1-3 years old during 2006, minicars experienced 106 driver deaths per million registered vehicles compared with 69 driver deaths in large cars.”[3]

In weighing the pros and cons for your driving needs, remember to take these considerations into account before driving a micro-sized vehicle:

  • Do you drive in the city or the suburbs? You are more likely to encounter smaller vehicles travelling at slower speeds in urban areas.
  • How far is your commute? Fewer miles traveled at lower speeds leads to fewer and less severe crashes.
  • Does your micro car offer every advantage possible to help reduce injury? Look for safety features such as: electronic stability control, 4-6 airbags in the cabin, and anti-lock brakes.



[2] “Ride down” refers to the total movement of the human body during a collision including distance travelled and objects struck within the vehicle.