Articles Posted in Back and Spinal Injuries

attraction-731194_640Late summer amusement park fun has turned somber due to three recent incidents around the country. A young boy was fatally injured at a water park in Kansas City when he fell from an usually high slide. Three girls were injured on a ferris wheel ride in Tennessee when their car tipped, tossing the occupants onto the ground about 35 feet below. A three year old boy survived a fall out of a popular wooden roller coaster outside Pittsburgh. Our hearts go out to the family of the deceased ten-year old boy and we hope for the full recovery of the injured girls and the little boy. These accidents bring back the national discussion about amusement park safety and its regulation.

CNN and other news agencies report that the young boy who lost his life on the water slide suffered a fatal neck injury. The specific cause of the injury is not yet known. He may have sustained the injury while riding the slide or he may have fallen from the slide. The others who were riding with him were not seriously injured. The slide is said to be the highest in the country and riders can reach 70 mile per hour speeds while riding in the raft down the slide. There are height and weight requirements for the ride which if not followed, can result in serious injury and in this case, a loss of life.

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87597_42085359In late July this year, Congress passed a resolution naming September as Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Month. The many reasons for this resolution were noted by Congress and included, that: nearly 1.3 million people in America are coping with such injuries, many of whom served in the armed forces; that motor vehicles accidents are one of the leading causes of such injuries (particularly in children under the age of 18), as well as traumatic brain injuries, and; that these injuries occur nearly every minute in our country. The intention is to increase focus and funding on education and research to continue to improve treatment and cures for these devastating injuries. Part of this resolution was also a commendation of those working in this field.

As a lawyer who has represented many spinal cord injury victims and their families, I am very aware of the devastating impact on all when such an injury occurs. A month dedicated to spinal injury is a great step to bring even more awareness and more importantly, hope. This attention sheds light on the types of injuries involved and the many areas of research and treatment that are progressing in our country and around the world. Not surprisingly, as noted these injuries disproportionately impact children under 18 in motor vehicle accidents. Those touched by spine and brain injuries, should have renewed hope that research continues to vastly improve the lives of those dealing with this challenge.

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Pedestrian2In our last post, I shared the challenges involved in recovery after a spinal injury. This area of medical research is complex, but the rewards for progress are great. Making major strides with technology and medical advancement, has given those with catastrophic injury a better quality of life. Many organizations are dedicated to this effort. Within the National Institutes of Health (NIH) there are many related agencies, one of which is the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). The wide-ranging research that is underway there involves not only this entity, but others that are privately and publicly funded. Just one example among many is the United Spinal Association which has its roots in the veterans’ spinal injuries of WWII. The New York City veterans who were paralyzed during that war founded the organization to ensure greater rights and support for those with severe injury. These courageous vets wanted to ensure that those with paralyzing injuries would have the opportunity to have good quality of life, as well as greater civil rights. The organization today continues this mission. Not only does it serve those with spinal injuries, it supports their family members and other that care for the injured.

In addition to the support provided by institutions and private foundations, centers of excellence in research and care of spinal cord injuries are found within hospital communities. Some of these hospitals are able to put research into practice and in so doing, refine that research. The areas of research focus at this time include those that involve replacement of damaged nerve cells and protecting the patient’s surviving cells from damage. Due to the sheer complexity of the spinal cord and its importance in many aspects of the body’s function, an injury to the spinal cord is not a static event. Rather it changes over time, making the treatment of such injury more complex as well.  Continue reading

downhill-skier_6188.jpgThe most recent advance in downhill skiing may not be skis, not boots, not aerodynamic clothing … it is airbags. These new airbags for skiers are intended to protect skiers from catastrophic injuries after losing control on a run. Many well-known skiers have suffered severe injuries in recent years and some have had to drop out of racing or jumping at Olympic Games due to their injuries. An airbag system for skiers will be permitted for use at the World Cup and other major races. This is not something that skiers are required to use, but officials have been working on the system with manufacturers and are hoping skiers will give the airbags a try.

The possibility for serious injury is a risk that skiers are simply willing to take. But a rash of accidents, that included high-profile skiers, which included severe limb and brain injuries was the motivator for this new device. The airbag system which can be worn as part of the skier’s racing gear, is intended to inflate when it senses that the athlete is out of control. Although the device has been tested to ensure that it doesn’t slow the racer down or interfere in their performance, it remains to be seen whether racers will adopt the device. One of the more difficult aspects of the development of the device has been ensuring that it deploys at precisely the right moment. Some truly horrific injuries have been suffered by skiers over the past several years. It is hoped that this device will help avoid further injury to life and limb.

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for 1175023_magnolia.jpgA local tragedy has caused many of us to consider our kids and their sports activities in a different way. Sports injuries are something we think about as we approach the start of school and football season. But we do not expect that young athletes risk their lives when getting out for football practice or for games. And thankfully, such risks are very rare. But when something happens close to home, like the loss of young life, we all need to pause and reflect.

Recently, a Fulton County high school football player passed away after an apparent scrimmage injury. Every year we hear about something like this on a basketball court or football field and we wonder, why is young life taken with no warning under these circumstances? As an Atlanta injury lawyer, I know the pain that families experience in losing a child and my heart goes out to the family of this fine young man.

The Fulton County Medical Examiner’s office has stated that the young Creekside High School football player passed away after being injured on the field and being taken to Grady Memorial Hospital. He apparently broke his neck during the scrimmage. The tragedy is made worse by the fact that football appears to have been at the center of this young man’s life. The University of Kentucky had already offered him a place in their football program after graduation and other schools were looking at him. He was said to have been an obvious Division One corner.

According to national reports, deaths from high school football are rare. Over the past decade, there have been an average of three fatal injuries on high school football fields.The National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research at the University of North Carolina retains statistics on sports injuries and deaths. There were no such deaths in 2012, which had not been the case since 1994.

Coaches and others have lauded the deceased young football player as a wonderful young man who was full of love for his family and for the game. His polite manner and esteem among his teammates is a testament to his memory now. But it is difficult to imagine the pain his family and friends are feeling, not to mention the sadness that will be present as the school year begins at his high school and at their games this season.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that it has been since 2009 that a Georgia football player has died on the field as occurred here.

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motorcyclistcountryroadiStock_000018067726XSmall.jpgThe Memorial Day weekend in Atlanta was a wonderful tribute to our service men and women as the community celebrated our troops in various and important ways. But for one man and his loved ones, tragedy struck unexpectedly as a world-class Augusta, Georgia athlete suffered a terrible and complex injury, one that I have dealt with in my practice as an Atlanta spinal cord injury lawyer.

Sunday morning, champion boxer Paul Williams who has twice been named top welterweight by the World Boxing Organization, was traveling on his motorcycle on South Marietta Parkway. He was in town for his brother’s wedding.

According to the reports by the Atlanta-Journal Constitution and the Associated Press, he was traveling at a high rate of speed. The motorcycle he was riding crashed into an embankment as authorities stated the bike was traveling ” ‘too fast for conditions’ ” and ” ‘could not negotiate a curve.’ ” The bike went off the road and tragically, Mr. Williams’ spinal cord was severed. This is a very serious injury, depending on where on the spinal cord the injury occurs and how badly the spinal cord is severed, partially or completely.

Amazingly, his manager told the AP that he wants to fight again and get back on his bike although he is currently paralyzed from the waist down. It is also expected that Mr. Williams will make a statement this week. We wish him well and our prayers and thoughts are with him for his recovery.

From all accounts, he is in good spirits and wants to get back on his bike and box again. Touted as a very accomplished boxer, he has had a long career with significant successes and is reported to be one of the best in the world in his class. His sense of humor and outlook on life may well be the best tool he has to fight the tragedy that has befallen him.

Spinal cord injuries are complex and varied. As we have seen in past years with high profile cases like that of Christopher Reeves, individuals can live many years with these injuries through the help of medical advances in the understanding of this complex spinal cord system. Among the most common causes of spinal cord injuries are: car, truck and motorcycle accidents; falls, particularly in people over age 65; gun violence and sports, including diving as well as football and other contact sports.

In my work as an Atlanta catastrophic injury lawyer, I know that spinal cord injuries are life changing, complex and difficult both legally and emotionally. Not only is the victim dealing with pain and suffering, but there are very pragmatic aspects to these cases. Spinal cord injury victims must protect themselves financially as they may not be able to work in their chosen profession. They will likely have additional medical expenses throughout their lives.

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With good weather and summer fun, come some added dangers of personal and catastrophic injury. And as a Georgia personal injury lawyer experienced with helping victims of serious injuries and their families pick up the pieces after suffering injury, I see first hand the dangers of summer fun. I do not wish to step on anyone’s summer fun, but I am compelled to warn parents of some specific dangers noted earlier this week in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The age of social media and access to sites like YouTube has made communication more interesting and information more available. But along with this, teens are doing more and more dangerous activities to get the attention of their peers filming dangerous or daring acts to post for others to see.

Parents must pay attention to this potential and warn their children of these dangers. They are real and potentially life-changing and they are happening right here in the Atlanta metro area and surrounding counties.

As noted in the piece in the AJC, the dangers include the allure of tall bridges with shallow waters under them. Some bridges are lower, but the water is not deep enough to support the jump from above. Gainesville police told the AJC that divers do not consider what they are jumping into … but they do it anyway. And of course, adding to this danger is the use of alcohol, which impairs judgment.

Social media is a part of the problem, say local police. As noted in the AJC article, “[w]ith school out and the summertime heat, bridge jumpers are out in full force around Lake Lanier and Lake Allatoona, both a quick drive from Atlanta.” Law enforcement near these popular lakes is all too aware of the dangers of jumping from bridges.

The potential for debris that is unseen catching a diver and keeping them from surfacing is one real problem. Another is the fact that jumpers often misjudge the distance to shore and have difficulty swimming the distances back to safety. And the police caution that another very real danger is the height of the bridge and distance to the water which can be a very hard blow to the diver’s body.

Only last February, “a Buford woman was seriously injured when she was forced to jump 40 feet into Lake Lanier to avoid being struck by an oncoming tractor-trailer.” She was seriously injured.

Another danger is that drivers can become distracted by jumpers and end up in an accident themselves. In addition, some train trestles are too narrow for pedestrians and if you are walking on a trestle, you might be forced to jump to avoid being hit by a train. The Forsyth County Fire Department was quoted as stating that the public cost of rescue is a factor that most do not consider.

The police in Cobb, Forsyth and other areas, will write citations when they find jumpers, but sometimes these teens and others are able to jump when no one is around. Which is, in itself, quite dangerous.
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On Monday night, Phil Youngclaus from the Gwinnett Gladiators was hospitalized due to an accident in which he lost control of his truck. The truck had overturned, rolled across the highway several times, ejected Youngclaus, and hit a mailbox and fence.

The hockey player also was cited for driving under the influence (DUI), possession of an open container in a vehicle, failure to maintain lane and not wearing his seatbelt. The arrest reportedly occurred after Youngclaus refused to comply with a blood alcohol test. According to Georgia’s Implied Consent Law, law enforcement officers are allowed to ask for breath, blood or urine samples to determine whether a driver is intoxicated. Refusal to submit to such tests can lead to fines, arrests, or suspensions of driving privileges.

It’s really a shame when a sports figure, ostensibly a local hero and a role model for youth, decides to drive drunk. And make no mistake. Getting behind the wheel while intoxicated is always a decision–one with definite, often deadly consequences. In this case, Youngclaus sustained head injuries and apparently broke his back in several places. Back injuries from a DUI car accident can result in catastrophic spinal injury, paraplegia, quadriplegia or even death. So really, he got off easy.

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On the heels of Toyota’s massive recall of 6.1 million vehicles due to accelerator defects, GM announced Monday that it is recalling 1.3 million cars due to problems with power steering.

According to NHTSA, complaints filed against GM assert that the loss of power steering assist in many GM vehicles has led to car accidents and injuries. Owners complain that power steering assist goes out without warning, requiring greater steering effort under 15 mph. The car has to be restarted for the power steering assist to work again.

The defects affect 2005-2010 Chevrolet Cobalt, 2007-2010 Pontiac G5s, Pontiac Pursuits sold in Canada, and Pontiac G4s sold in Mexico. GM began the recall after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) received more than 1,100 complaints.

According to NHTSA, about 10 percent of the complaints allege that the loss of the steering assist resulted in difficulty controlling the vehicle, such as leaving your lane of traffic. As a result, the failure of power steering assist may lead to head on collisions and intersection accidents, causing possible head, neck and back injuries.

Despite complaints of the steering defect for over a year, GM just notified NHTSA and issued its recall Monday night.

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No injury is more devastating to a Georgia truck accident victim, auto accident victim or premises liability victim than a spinal cord injury. Paralysis occurs if the spinal cord is severed. Depending on where it is severed, the paralysis can be defined as quadriplegia for paralysis of all four limbs, or paraplegia for paralysis of only the lower extremities. Whatever the result, the practical effect of a spinal cord injury is life-changing.

Gwinnet County spine injury cases are complicated and require expert testimony concerning the real-life impact of the injury and an economic quantification of all the damages. Issues like future medical treatment, future physical therapy treatment, future lost wages, future reduction and ability to earn a living are all relevant inquiries. All aspects of the life status pre-injury compared to post-injury must be fully explored to assure a fair settlement or verdict for the injured party. Many times discovering all available insurance is the most challenging aspect of a lawyer’s role. Most liability insurance policies do not cover the extensive damages suffered by spinal cord injury victims. Consequently, uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage needs to be claimed. Multiple UM policies in Georgia can often be stacked to maximize coverage.

Securing the evidence needed to prove liability is also key. If the accident involved a tractor trailer, they typically have already obtained a head start in the process. Knowing that the injuries are often catastrophic, these insurance companies and responsible parties go out of their way to reduce their chances of having to pay any large amounts. An accident attorney needs to act aggressively to make sure the accident victim is protected.

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