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Information about Personal Injury in Washington State

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Monthly Archives: February 2014

Alarming Increase in Traffic Fatalities Involving Marijuana Use

Categories: Auto Accidents

By Jacob W. Gent. Posted on .

The legalization of marijuana is an idea that is gaining momentum in the United States.  But there may be a dark side to pot becoming more commonplace.

A recent study has determined that fatal motor vehicle collisions involving marijuana use have tripled over the past 10 years.  The study from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health report, found that one in nine drivers involved in fatal crashes test positive for marijuana.  According to Dr. Guohua Li, director of the Center for Injury Epidemiology and Prevention at Columbia, and co-author of the study, “If this trend continues, in five or six years non-alcohol drugs will overtake alcohol to become the most common substance involved in deaths related to impaired driving.”

The conclusions of the study were based on crash statistics from six states that routinely perform toxicology tests on drivers involved in fatal motor vehicle collisions: California, Hawaii, Illinois, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and West Virginia. The data included over 23,500 drivers who died within one hour of a collision between 1999 and 2010.

The study found that alcohol contributed to about the same percentage of traffic fatalities during the same time period.  However, drugs played a gradual increasing role in fatal collisions.  Marijuana proved to be the main drug involved in the increase, contributing to 12 percent of 2010 traffic fatalities compared with 4 percent in 1999.  Overall, drugged driving accounted for more than 28 percent of traffic deaths in 2010, up from just over 16 percent in 1999.  According to the researchers, the increase in marijuana use occurred across all age groups and in both sexes.

Authors of the study noted that the combined use of alcohol and marijuana dramatically increases a driver’s risk of death.  “If a driver is under the influence of alcohol, their risk of a fatal crash is 13 times higher than the risk of the driver who is not under the influence of alcohol,” Li said. “But if the driver is under the influence of both alcohol and marijuana, their risk increases to 24 times that of a sober person.”

In an endnote to the study, the researchers acknowledged several limitations with their conclusions.  One is that marijuana can be detected in the blood up to one week after use. Therefore, “the prevalence of nonalcoholic drugs reported in this study should be interpreted as an indicator of drug use, not necessarily a measurement of drug impairment.”

Source: Trends in Alcohol and Other Drugs Detected in Fatally Injured Drivers in the United States, 1999–2010, American Journal of Epidemiology, Jan. 2014.

Traumatic Spinal Cord Injuries Increasing in the U.S.

Categories: Other Physical Injuries

By Steven J. Angles. Posted on .

I very recently received news from a family member across the country that she had been injured as a result of a fall.  While performing some online research to try and determine the best possible resources in her area to help her cope with this difficult time in her life, I came across an interesting news item that was released by the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine on January 27, 2014.  According to a study published in the Journal of Neurotrauma and conducted by Shalini Selvarajah, M.D., postdoctoral research fellow at Johns Hopkins, the single largest cause for the rise in traumatic spinal cord injuries in the United States is no longer the motor vehicle crash.[1]  Instead, the blame rests with the increasing number of falls that occur yearly, and in particular, among the elderly.

The study tracked 43,137 adults treated in hospital emergency rooms for spinal cord injuries between 2007 and 2009.   Over the course of the three-year study, falls accounted for 41.5% of traumatic spinal cord injuries, followed by motor vehicle collisions at 35.5%.  The average age of a patient with a traumatic spinal cord injury increased from 41 years old (during a 2000-2005 study), to 51 years old. 

The big question for me was: “Why the sudden large-scale shift from car crashes to falls?”  While the study did not provide a specific response, the researchers noted that we as Americans are living longer, more active lives, leading to more opportunities to be subject to injuries of this type.  In addition, advances in vehicle safety are making it increasingly possible to reduce serious injury in motor vehicle collisions, while individuals injured during a fall have little to no way of protecting themselves from some degree of injury. 

In the end, this study makes me recall the words of my snowboarding instructor, who always taught me to “hug myself” if I ever felt like I would fall (instead of instinctively bracing myself with my hands). Unfortunately, as in cases where someone unexpectedly falls due to the negligence of another, it is never quite that simple.




The Zackery Lystedt Law Now Law in All 50 States

Categories: Brain Injury

By PI-Advisor. Posted on .

On May 14, 2009, then Washington State Governor Christine Gregoire signed into law the “Zackery Lystedt Law.”  This first-in-the-nation law, prohibits youth athletes suspected of sustaining a concussion from returning to play or practice without a licensed health-care provider’s approval. The new law is the most comprehensive return-to-play law in the United States for athletes under 18.

In less than 5 years, all 50 states and the District of Columbia have passed a similar law.  This is the fastest growing public safety initiative to go into law in all states, ever.  Many states still don’t have seatbelt or helmet laws –  public safety initiatives that have been pushed for decades. 

Zackery Lystedt and his parents, Victor and Mercedes Lystedt, made it their mission to ensure no family has to go through what they went through.   On October 12, 2006, Zackery suffered a life-threatening brain injury during a middle school football game.  School coaches returned him to play football after he sustained a concussion, without first obtaining a complete evaluation by a licensed health care professional trained in the evaluation and management of concussions.  The young football star underwent emergency life-saving brain surgery at Harborview Medical Center after he collapsed on the field.   Zackery, now 21 years old, spends 40 hours per week working on his rehabilitation and taking college courses.

What’s next?  The Lystedts are pushing to bring the law to the US Congress and make it a federal law.  With the support of key national organizations including the NFL, CDC, USA Football, the United States Brain Injury Alliance just to name a few, the Lystedts believe it will happen.  The law is also catching on internationally with Canada and Australia calling for interviews with the Lystedts, Richard H. Adler, and Dr. Stanley Herring. 

Here are some recent reports on Zackery Lystedt.


Recent Change to Medical Malpractice Statute of Limitations Affects Minors Injured Through Medical Negligence

Categories: Personal Injury Resources

By Arthur D. Leritz. Posted on .

Navigating a personal injury claim can be daunting – especially when it involves a claim of medical negligence by a healthcare provider.  This is especially true in dealing with the “Statute of Limitations” in such a case – the deadline when a medical malpractice claim must be filed or your claim will be forever barred.  Generally, a medical malpractice claim must be filed within three years of the negligent act or omission, or one year after the patient discovered or reasonably should have discovered the negligent act or omission, whichever is later.[1]  Confused yet?  It gets worse:  Prior to a recent Washington Supreme Court case, this time period was not suspended if the person injured by medical negligence was a minor, as is common in other negligence cases –  the theory being that knowledge of the negligent act would be imputed to the minor’s parents and they could file suit on behalf of the minor. 

This changed with the recent case of Schroeder vs. Weighall.[2]  In that case, the injured party, a minor at the time of the alleged negligence, filed his lawsuit 14 months after discovery of the negligence – two months too late under the old statutory scheme.  The Washington Supreme Court in Schroeder held that it is unfair to particularly burden a vulnerable minority (minors) not accountable for their status and that the RCW 4.16.190(2) places a disproportionate burden on the child whose parent/guardian lacks the knowledge or incentive to pursue a claim on the child’s behalf. Courts in other jurisdictions have recognized this problem, noting that statutes similar to RCW 4.16.190(2) have the greatest impact on children in the foster care system, children with minor parents and parents who are simply not concerned.

Therefore, the Court in Schroeder struck down RCW 4.16.190(2) as violating the State’s equal protection clause of the State Constitution, holding that the Statute of Limitations for medical negligence is tolled (suspended) during the time the person is a minor. 

If you have any questions on the Statute of Limitations for a medical negligence claim or questions on other Statutes of Limitation, the attorneys at Adler Giersch, PS are ready and willing to assist you.


[1] RCW 4.16.350, RCW 4.16.190.

[2] Schroeder v. Weighall, 316 P.3d 482 (filed January 16, 2014)

Rolfing: What is it, and can it help with chronic back pain?

Categories: Other Physical Injuries

By Melissa D. Carter. Posted on .

“Rolfing” is a massage therapy that involves manipulation of the body and movement education.  Founded by Ida Rolf, a biochemist over 70 years ago in New York City, the Rolfing Institute explains that Rolfing is a “holistic system of soft tissue manipulation and movement education that organizes the whole body in gravity.”   Rolf theorized that, while skeletal muscles often work in opposing pairs in concert, with one contracting and the other relaxing, the fascia, or connective tissue, often get bound up and restrict opposing muscles from functioning.  When an injury occurs, Rolf theorized, the fascia tightens around that injury, somewhat like a cast or band-aid. Even after the injury heals, the fascia stays in that rigid position, often causing chronic pain and discomfort. Rolf sought to separate the fibers of the jumbled fascia manually, to loosen them and allow effective movement.

The theory was born out of many modalities, including osteopathic medicine, chiropractic medicine and yoga.  The main premise is that the body must be secure so that it can use gravity for support, to then allow each segment of the body to relate properly to the other. 

 The Rolfing massage technique involves an attempt to reposition tissues under the skin by manipulating connective tissue, keeping in mind the body’s relationship to gravity.   Balancing the entire body and increasing movement, Rolfing is intended to resolve chronic problems, such as pain and tightness, by releasing tension patterns and realigning the legs, torso, shoulders, arms and head.

The “Rolfer” and the patient must work together to change the body’s form, balance and function.  The Rolfer slowly lengthens the body’s fascia and repositions it by manipulating the connective tissue.  Many patients praise Rolfing for restoring mobility where years of tension and holding once hindered joints.

Long ignored as a fringe therapy, Rolfing has recently been getting serious attention from researchers. The National Institutes of Health provided a grant for the First International Fascia Research Congress in 2007, which brought together therapists, scientists, and doctors.

More recently, Eric Jacobson, a research associate at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Boston and a lecturer at Harvard Medical School’s department of global health and social medicine, received an NIH grant to study the therapy’s effect on chronic low back pain, which affects 16 million American adults. Other research has shown the therapy reduces the pain of fibromyalgia.