Personal Injury Updates

Information about Personal Injury in Washington State

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Speeding Is a Problem On US Roads – Particularly for Young Drivers

Categories: Auto Accidents

By Arthur D. Leritz. Posted on .

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released a new survey recently that sheds some insight into attitudes on speeding.[1]    According to the NHTSA data, speeding-related deaths account for nearly 1/3 of all traffic fatalities per year, taking close to 10,000 lives.  Almost half of the driver surveyed, 48%, reported that speeding was a problem and that something needed to be done to reduce speeding on U.S. roads.  Yet, of those surveyed, more than 25% admitted to speeding “without thinking.”  Another 16% felt that driving over the speed limit is not dangerous for skilled drivers.

Not surprisingly, those with the least amount of driving skills admitted to speeding more than any other age group.  11% of the drivers in the 16-20 year old age group reported at least one speeding-related crash in the past 5 years – compared to 4% of the population as a whole.  This is statistically significant given that young drivers may not have been driving for all of the past 5 years.

NHTSA also recently launched its “5 to Drive” campaign that challenges parents to discuss the 5 biggest beneficial impacts in the event of a crash:

  1. No speeding;
  2. No cell phone use or texting while driving;
  3. No extra passengers;
  4. No alcohol; and
  5. No driving or riding without a seat belt.[2]

If you or someone you know was involved in a motor vehicle collision where speed was a factor, the experienced attorneys at Adler Giersch, PS are ready and willing to help you. 



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)

Drunk Driving Deaths Up for the First Time in Six Years

Categories: Auto Accidents

By Arthur D. Leritz. Posted on .

As we head into the holiday season and New Year, it is more important than ever to keep drunk drivers off the road.  Recent data that was just released indicates that 10,322 people were killed in drunk driving crashes in 2012.[1]  This means that every 51 minutes, a life was lost due to an automobile crash involving a drunk driver.  This represents a 4.6% increase in drunk driving deaths when compared to 2011.  More troubling is that over half of these crashes involved drivers with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .15 or higher – nearly double the legal limit of .08.

Drunk driving fatalities were on the decrease in preceding years.  The 2012 year was the first increase in drunk driving fatalities since 2006.  Drunk driving deaths accounted for a staggering 31% of all traffic fatalities for 2012.

Washington State was one of the few bright spots in the study.  Drunk driving deaths in Washington decreased 7.6% when compared to drunk driving deaths in 2011.

Obviously more needs to be done concerning education and awareness of drunk driving so that we can stop this upward trend and work towards a goal of zero deaths related to drunk driving.  If you see anyone who is impaired attempting to drive a vehicle, stop them.  The life you may be saving could be yours or someone’s close to you.



Sobriety Checkpoints: Like It or Not, They Work

Categories: Auto Accidents

By Arthur D. Leritz. Posted on .

The idea of sobriety checkpoints are a controversial issue here in Washington State, despite the fact that they seem to work.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, those states that have sobriety checkpoints reduced alcohol-related fatal, injury and property damage crashes each by about 20%.[1]   This same study also found a correlation between the frequency/publicity of sobriety checkpoints and a reduction in alcohol-related fatalities: the more checkpoints that are conducted, the lower the amount of driving deaths caused by impaired driving. iStock_000018130522XSmall (2)

Washington is only one of 12 states that do not allow sobriety checkpoints.[2]  Sobriety checkpoints are currently not legal in Washington State and it may very well take an amendment to the State Constitution to authorize these checkpoints.  This idea is gaining in popularity after recent highly publicized cases involving deaths and serious injuries due to impaired driving, such as the recent case in North Seattle where a mother and her infant son were severely injured and the grandparents were killed as they were crossing the street when they were hit by an impaired driver.  Just this week, Rep. Brad Klippert, R-Kennewick, said that his staff is drafting language for a new bill to authorize the checkpoints, which would stop drivers even if they have done nothing wrong.  Rep. Roger Goodman, D-Kirkland, has said that he plans to hold a hearing on the proposal.[3]

If you see someone driving erratically, call 911.  If you, a friend or family member has been injured as a result of impaired driving, the Attorneys at Adler Giersch, PS are ready and willing to help you.



[1] Countermeasures That Work: A Highway Safety Countermeasure Guide for State Highway Safety Offices, 6th Ed. 2011 DOT HS S11 444.

[2] Checkpoints are permitted under the United States Constitution.

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.

Getting In A Car Accident: It’s Like Having a Second Job, Isn’t It?

Categories: Auto Accidents

By Arthur D. Leritz. Posted on .

If you’ve ever been in a car accident, you know how difficult your life can get.  Not only you do have to deal with painful injuries, but there are all of the doctor’s appointments that you need to go to and make time for.  It is not uncommon to have 4-5 doctor visits a week, if not more, following an accident.  This can be not only daunting, but overwhelming.

I can’t tell you how many times I speak with people who have been in an accident express their frustration and difficulty in keeping up with all of the appointments – it truly is like having a second job, as the hours can really add up in a week.  Many people simply give up care and stop going, because it can be just too overwhelming – which is exactly what the insurance company is hoping you will do.  The following pointers are meant to keep you on track so you do not lose faith.

Keep an electronic calendar

So far as I know, every cell phone out there has an electronic calendar on it that will allow you to enter appointments.  Use it to your advantage and make sure you are tracking and recording your appointments so you don’t miss any.   Also, make sure you set reminders to go off at least 30 minutes in advance.  Using an electronic calendar is also a good way to keep an accurate record of hours missed in the event you present a wage loss claim.

Group appointments together

To the extent you can, try to coordinate your care so that you are scheduling your appointments as close together as possible.  That way, you can limit the impact your appointments will have on your day.

Ask about alternate hours

Many offices have hours before and after typical 9-5 work days, so see what is available.  Also, some offices are open for limited times on weekends.  The more flexible the provider is, the easier it will be to get the care you need.  If the provider does not advertise they are open alternate hours, be sure to ask.  You never know.

Talk to your employer

People seem to have a tendency to keep their employer in the dark regarding an accident.  Some people feel like they will get treated differently, or they won’t get the “good” assignment, etc., but more often than not your employer will work with you to make sure you have the time needed to get to doctor’s appointments.   Remember, if you do miss time from work and are able to use sick time, PTO time or vacation time, keep a record of that as well because you will be able to claim that as part of your economic loss from the accident.  Even if your paycheck remains the same, the fact that you had to use benefits to keep it that way which you would not have used “but for” the accident, means the insurance company has to pay you back for that.

Remember, the worst time after an accident is typically in that first 3-6 months, so hang in there and make sure you are doing everything you can to keep those appointments.  If you miss appointments, the insurance company for the at-fault driver will make one of the following assumptions, neither of which are to your benefit: (1) you missed appointments because you really weren’t that hurt to begin with, or (2) you would have healed much quicker had you followed the treatment plan as recommended by your doctors – both of which can affect your claim.

If you are stressed and overwhelmed about getting the care you need following an accident, the attorneys at Adler Giersch, PS are standing by to help you.

Parents: Providing Alcohol to Minors In Washington State Will Get You Into Trouble

Categories: Practical Tips You Can Use

By Arthur D. Leritz. Posted on .

In Washington State, it is illegal for an adult to provide alcohol to minors.  It is also illegal for a property owner to provide a place for them to drink.  The statute provides:

(1) It is unlawful for any person to sell, give, or otherwise supply liquor to any person under the age of twenty-one years or permit any person under that age to consume liquor on his or her premises or on any premises under his or her control. For the purposes of this subsection, “premises” includes real property, houses, buildings, and other structures, and motor vehicles and watercraft. A violation of this subsection is a gross misdemeanor punishable as provided for in chapter 9A.20 RCW.[1]

Violating the law can put you in jail for up to 364 days, subject you to a $5,000.00 fine, or both.[2]

There is a strange exception to the law:  it is not illegal for parents or guardians of their minor child to furnish alcohol to them as long as it is done under their supervision.[3]  This does not mean it is ok for an adult to supervise anyone else other than their child – so providing a safe place for your child and their friends to drink is illegal.  In addition, you may be liable for civil damages if a child leaves your house and is injured because they are intoxicated.

Research has shown that even supervised minors who drink with adult supervision are more likely to have problems with alcohol than kids who are not allowed to drink until age 21. The study was conducted by Barbara J. McMorris, lead author and a senior research associate at the School of Nursing at the University of Minnesota.[4]  She and her colleagues tracked1,945 seventh graders for three years.  Half of the teens were from Victoria, Australia, the other half from Washington state.

The study found that it didn’t matter in which country parents and youth lived, the idea of teaching teens responsible drinking behavior was not working.   The study found that adult-supervised settings for alcohol use resulted in higher levels of harmful alcohol consequences, contrary to predictions prior to the study.   “The study makes it dear that you shouldn’t be drinking with your kids” says McMorris.

So, the next time you’re asked to buy or provide alcohol to a minor or to allow underage drinking in your home, simply tell them: NO.  It’s bad for them and could also expose you to criminal and civil liability.  Be a smart parent and don’t let any person under the age of 21 drink on your property.



[1] RCW 66.44.270.

[2] RCW 9A.20.021.

[3] RCW 66.44.270(3).

My Car Is “totaled” – Now What?

Categories: Auto Accidents

By Arthur D. Leritz. Posted on .

Getting in a collision is scary. In addition to getting the medical care you need, often the first task (and sometimes most daunting) is dealing with the property damage loss.  If your vehicle is “totaled” (meaning the cost of repair is more than the actual cash value of the car) then you will have to deal with an insurer to come up with a fair value for the vehicle.  Here are a few important things to remember:

  1. Insurers will value the vehicle at “fair market value” or “actual cash value.”  So, don’t take their word for it.  Do your homework and check local ads for similar vehicles in your area with similar mileage, options, condition, etc. If you think their offer is too low.
  2. If you are making a claim under your own policy and you can’t agree on a value, invoke the independent appraisal clause in your policy and get an independent appraiser to look at it.  If you are dealing with the at-fault party’s insurer, make a claim under your own policy (if you have that coverage) or you may need to consult with an attorney.
  3. The insurer also has to add in any applicable taxes, license fees and any other fees required to transfer ownership.
  4. If you just put on new tires or other accessories or items that add to the value then let the insurance company know about it.  They will likely give you credit for that – but remember it will not be dollar for dollar.  The key thing to remember is the “fair market value” of anything added to the vehicle.
  5. If you decide to keep the vehicle, the insurer will deduct the salvage value of the vehicle from the settlement amount.  You will also be issued a new title that indicates your vehicle is a salvage vehicle.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder – Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Categories: Psychological Injury

By Arthur D. Leritz. Posted on .

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a diagnosis frequently made for patients who have survived a serious traumatic event, but it is also a diagnosis that is greatly misunderstood.

While PTSD has been commonly associated with veterans returning home from combat zones, 8% of the general population in the United States is believed to have suffered from PTSD at some point in their lives. (1)   In comparison, 13.8% of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan reportedly suffer from PTSD. (2)  Enlisted personnel are twice as likely to suffer from PTSD as officers. (3)

There is no doubt that physical trauma caused by armed conflict, assaults, motor vehicle crashes, falls, burns, or loss of a limb can, and often does, result in significant pain and emotional traumatic injury.  However, the mere presence of psychological distress related to traumatic injury does not necessarily mean the patient has post-traumatic stress disorder.

It is now accepted in the health care community based on a growing body of scientific literature that persistent and profound changes in some of the body’s physiologic systems occur in individuals with PTSD.  Researchers have found evidence of damage to the physical systems associated with PTSD such as increased sympathetic nervous system activity, alterations in stress hormones secretion, memory processing and limbic system abnormalities in brain imaging studies of traumatized patients.

In order for a psychological injury to rise to the level of a diagnosis of PTSD, it must meet all of the specific diagnostic criteria of the DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual — 4th edition) published by the American Psychological Association, including the following:

  • Exposure to a traumatic event in which “the person experienced, witnessed, or was confronted with . . . actual or threatened death or serious injury, or a threat to the physical integrity of self or others.” The patient must also have experienced the event with “intense fear, helplessness, or horror.”
  • The traumatic event is persistently re-experienced “by distressing recollections of the event, distressing dreams, reliving of the event, or intense psychological or physical distress at exposure to cues that remind the patient of the trauma.”
  • Persistent avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma or “numbing” of the senses. Examples include: avoiding thoughts of the event; avoiding activities, places, or people that arouse memories of the event; inability to recall important aspects of the trauma; diminished interest or participation in life activities; feelings of detachment; reduced range of emotional expression; or a lack of a sense of future.
  • Persistent symptoms of increased arousal. Examples are: insomnia, irritability, difficulty concentrating, or an exaggerated startle response.
  • A duration of more than one month, with a disturbance in the person’s social and work life. (1)

In the area of motor vehicle crashes, there are characteristics that make for a greater risk of PTSD or related psychological symptoms, including:

  1. The event is completely out of the individual’s control, much like an unprovoked and completely unexpected physical attack.
  1. The event causing the traumatic injury involves feelings of helplessness and fear; the victim was unable to do anything to avoid or prevent it.
  1. Phobias.  Fear of driving or fear of the traumatic event’s location.
  1. Injuries can be very painful.  PTSD has been associated not only with the physical trauma of a violent event, but also arising from intense pain experienced by the patient separate from the traumatic event itself.  Prolonged and severe pain experienced immediately after a traumatic injury, but before the intervention of care, can be the traumatic experience itself leading to PTSD symptoms.
  1. Cognitive disorders can increase PTSD symptoms. Cognitive disorders following trauma are often not diagnosed early on.  This can have a very negative psychological impact on those who experience further fear, anxiety, or depression because real symptoms are not believed or validated by the treatment provider.  This can lead to the exacerbation of PTSD symptoms.

Treatment of PTSD

The most successful treatment for PTSD has been the use of cognitive-behavioral therapy, often in conjunction with medication. (5)  The medications Sertraline (Zoloft) and Paroxetine (Paxil) are Selective Serotonin Re-uptake inhibitors (SSRI) that are the first medications to have received FDA approval as indicated treatments for PTSD. (5)   In addition to cognitive-behavioral therapy and medications, group therapy is also frequently used for mildly to moderately affected PTSD patients.  (5)  In the group setting, the PTSD patient can discuss traumatic memories, PTSD symptoms, and functional deficits with others who have had similar experiences. This approach has been most successful with war Veterans, rape/incest victims, and natural disaster survivors. (5)

PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injury

PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) have several symptoms in common.  Among these are irritability, concentration deficits, amnesia for the causal event, reduced cognitive processing ability, and sleeping disturbances.  The overlap of symptoms of PTSD with traumatic brain injury can make diagnosing more challenging for a healthcare professional not well versed in both conditions. (6)

Treatments for PTSD, TBI and other co-morbidities are typically symptom-focused and evidence based.  For example, early data shows that the treatments that have worked well in Veterans with PTSD alone, such as cognitive processing therapy, prolonged exposure or SSRI’s, can also work well for Veterans who have suffered a mild traumatic brain injury as well as emotional trauma.  (7)  Memory aids can also be useful in this population.  Patients can also benefit from occupational rehabilitation and case management, depending on the severity of their injuries. Patient should be referred to consultants, such as neurologists, neuropsychologists, and substance abuse or other specialized treatment as needed. (7)

 

References

  1. American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th ed., text rev.). Washington, DC: Liebowitz, Michael R, Barlow, David H., Ballenger, James C., Davidson, Johnathan, Foa, Edna, Fyer, Abby.
  2. Gradus, Jaimie L. Epidemiology of PTSD, National Center for PTSD.
  3. The History of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, PsychiatricDisorders.com
  4. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Mental Health: A Report of the Surgeon General—Executive Summary. Rockville, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Mental Health Services, National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Mental Health, 1999.
  5. Friedman, Matthew J.  PTSD History and Overview, National Center for PTSD.
  6. Glaesser, J.et al. (2004).  Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in patients with traumatic brain injury.  BMC Psychiatry. 2004; 4: 5.)
  7. Summerall, E. Lanier.  Traumatic Brain Injury and PTSD, National Center for PTSD.

Bicycle Crashes and Injury Statistics

Categories: Bicycle Injury

By Arthur D. Leritz. Posted on .

Recently, I was out for a nice, leisurely evening bicycle ride with my wife, our 9 year old nephew and our 12 year old niece.  We were all having a nice time until the kids stopped short, I did not, and I ended up flying over my handle bars.  One broken arm and one broken rib later, it got me wondering how often bicycle crashes occur in this country.

According to the U.S Department of Transportation and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:

  1.  In 2010, 618 bicyclists were killed and an additional 52,000 were injured in motor vehicle traffic crashes.1  The average age of the rider was 42.2
  2. 72% of the bicyclist fatalities in 2010 occurred in urban areas and 67% at non-intersections.
  3. The majority of bicyclist fatalities, 28%, occurred between the hours of 4-8pm, with the second highest number, 25%, between the hours of 8-midnight.4
  4. The majority of bicyclists killed in 2010 were males (86%), and the highest number of male fatalities were between the ages of 45 and 54.  The most males injured were between 25 and 34.5
  5. Surprisingly, about 24% of bicylists killed in 2010 had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .01 grams per deciliter or higher, and over 1/5 had a BAC of .08 or higher.  In 2010 34% of crashes involved alcohol involvement – either for the bicyclist or motorist.6
  6. Alaska had no bicyclist fatalities in 2010 and the District of Columbia had the highest, with 8.3% of the total number of traffic fatalities.  Washington State was at 1.3%, short of the national average of 1.9%.7

 

Before getting on your bike:

  1. Make sure you have a properly fitting helmet (mine was the only thing on me that wasn’t scratched when I crashed, ironically).
  2. Obey the rules of the road and check your local municipality for additional bicycling ordinances.  Remember, bicyclists are considered vehicle operators and are subject to all traffic laws, signs and signals.
  3. When riding your bike, use proper hand signals to alert other bicyclists and motor vehicles on the road.  When driving your car, be especially cautious around bicycle riders and even more so around children who are riding bicycles.
  4. Increase your visibility by wearing bright and/or reflective clothing when riding a bicycle, especially at night, and make sure your bicycle is equipped with reflectors on the front and rear, as well as the wheels.
  5. Make sure to properly maintain your bicycle.  This includes checking for loose wheels, making sure the seat is adjusted properly, the brakes are in working order and that the tires are properly inflated every time before you go for a ride.

 

If you are injured while riding your bike due to the fault of a motorist, in Washington State you may have coverage under the driver’s policy, if they carried personal injury protection (PIP) coverage.



1http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/811624.pdf

2Ibid.

3Ibid.

4Ibid.

5Ibid.

6

7http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/811624.pdf