Friday, February 20, 2015

What Can I Expect My Doctors To Do When I’ve Suffered a Mild Traumatic Brain Injury?

Our firm has written several articles in the past about Mild Traumatic Brain Injuries, (MTBI) as well as on the different types of diagnostic tests used to determine whether one has suffered a MTBI. If you have suffered a mild traumatic brain injury as the result of an automobile collision or another type of acute injury, it is important to understand what types of testing your doctors may have you undergo during the process.

Your History

One of the most important things a doctor needs in order to properly treat you is to obtain a thorough and accurate history. Your doctor will ask you questions about your past medical history—injuries you’ve sustained, diseases you may have been diagnosed with and treatment you’ve received as a result. There will also be inquiry into your current symptoms and what precipitated those symptoms. It is imperative that you are as thorough as possible when discussing your medical history and current symptoms. Details must also be conveyed when explaining what happened in the collision or other incident that has caused you to suffer personal injury. Remember that what you are conveying to your doctor will be included in your medical records.

For instance, if you are involved in an automobile collision and your doctor asks, “what happened?” merely answering, “I was rear-ended” only provides a glimpse into the facts surrounding the crash. Instead, articulating the speed you were traveling, where you were traveling to and from, whether you had knowledge the crash was going to occur and were able to brace yourself, whether you were wearing your seatbelt and how your body moved during impact are all details that should be stated in order for your doctor to have a thorough understanding of your injuries. Remember, your medical records will be disclosed to the defense throughout the course of litigation and will also be used at trial. The story that is told throughout your records cannot be overlooked.

Physical Examination

Your doctor will then perform a physical examination of you based on your history and the complaints of your present illness. This often includes examining whether your range of motion has been impacted. This is tested by having you turn your head from side to side and up and down. Your doctor will also test your reflexes and may touch your muscles to determine whether there are spasms.

Neuropsychological Examination

If you’ve sustained any type of brain injury you will most likely undergo a battery of tests that evaluate and measure your cognitive function during a neuropsychological examination.

Tests Included

These types of examination will test how your brain in functioning. This includes testing your executive functions (planning, organization, and ability to grasp concepts) as well as your concentration, your problem solving capabilities and memory. You’ll also be tested on your planning and abstract thinking, visual and spatial perception, motor and sensory skills as well as your academic skills. Your mood is also assessed. If you are feeling anxious, worried, or upset, it could affect your ability to concentrate. Diagnostic testing will be able to show the structure of the brain. A neuropsychological examination, on the other hand, will test how well your brain actually functions when required to perform different tasks.

Unlike a physical examination or other invasive measures, a neuropsychological examination is conducted in a question and answer format, both with verbal questions in order to gain an overview of your history by the clinical neuropsychologist as well as written questions and different hands-on assessments. Testing can take anywhere from 4 (four) to 6 (six) hours and some evaluations are conducted over a 2 (two) day period. Best efforts are required in order to receive the most accurate results.

The Results

After testing is complete, the clinical neuropsychologist will score each individual test and interpret the results accordingly. These results will pinpoint areas of weakness in your examination and sent to your original treating physician who will go over the results with you. Your score will be interpreted by comparing your score with other healthy individuals that are similar to you in age, gender and educational background. All the data obtained from your neuropsychological examination will be analyzed to determine specific patterns in your cognitive strengths and weaknesses. Your neuropsychological evaluation will also be able to correlate the findings on your diagnostic studies. Doing so will assist with developing the best form of treatment moving forward. The results will also illustrate the extent of your injuries in a way that will allow your attorney to advocate on your behalf and obtain the compensation you deserve.

If you’ve suffered a Mild Traumatic Brain Injury as the result of an automobile collision or another type of acute trauma as the result of someone else’s negligence, it is critical to work with a team of attorneys who understand the intricacies in the testing and analysis of your results. The attorneys at Dolman Law Group understand the nuances of how a Mild Traumatic Brain Injury impacts individuals and how to best illustrate the extent of your injuries and damages to the insurance company and to a jury of your peers one day at trial if necessary. For more information, call 727-451-6900.

Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765
727-451-6900

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Flashing Lights At An Intersection Lead To Car Crashes

Each day on the road, we all move a little bit further away from the test we had to pass in order to be able to obtain our driver’s license, not to mention the written test for our learner’s permit. While this time grants us all priceless experience on the roads, which brings with us all-important confidence to handle most situations, it diminishes our knowledge of some of the more obscure and less often needed traffic rules of the road. In which order should we proceed through the intersection at a four-way stop? Can I make a left-hand turn across a double yellow line? How far should I be from the school bus when it stops to let out or pick up passengers? The purpose of this blog is to address some of the more common situations I experience in my everyday career as well as the things I see that drivers seem to not know how to handle.

Flashing Yellow Traffic Lights

A flashing yellow light has probably the most intuitive and simple rule, though how to proceed and the liability issues presented at such intersections are perhaps the most subjective and nebulous. A flashing yellow light is meant to indicate to drivers to proceed forward with caution, similar to a yield sign. If another driver is approaching the intersection or roadway that has a clear right-of-way, then the driver facing the flashing yellow light should yield the right-of-way before proceeding into the merge lane or through the intersection.

Flashing Red Traffic Lights

Flashing red traffic lights are typically used at dangerous intersections. They are to be treated the same as stop signs. When proceeding through an intersection with a flashing red traffic light, a driver should come to a full and complete stop, visually check all lanes of traffic to the right, left, and in front, and then cautiously proceed through the intersection.

Red Turn Arrows

A red right turn arrow requires a driver to come to a complete stop at the marked stop line, or before moving into the crosswalk or intersection.. After coming to a complete stop, the driver may turn right in spite of the red arrow at most intersections if the lane of travel is clear. However, occasionally there will be signage which specifically prescribes how a driver is expected to proceed with regard to the red arrow; such instructions must be heeded. Occasionally, a sign will be posted which states “No Turn on Red.” In these instances, despite the law that states that a vehicle can proceed after coming to a complete stop, a driver must wait for the light to change before they can proceed through the intersection.

Contact the Dolman Law Group

If you have suffered injury in an automobile accident due to another party’s negligence, or failure to observe the basic rules of the road described above, do not hesitate to contact an experienced personal injury attorney in Clearwater, Florida today. Personal Injury cases are fickle animals and lose value for the injured party with each passing day that said party goes without medical care and without legal representation. A qualified attorney will know how to sufficiently gather and present evidence of negligence in court so that you can receive the compensation you deserve. Please do not hesitate to call the Dolman Law Group for your free consultation today.

Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765
727-451-6900

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Hurt In a Bicycle Crash, Now What?

Florida residents don’t have to deal with much in the way of harsh winters. However, it does get just cold enough that many of us put our bicycles away while waiting out Fall and Winter’s chillier months. However, as the calendar turns to March, and Floridians begin to thaw out a bit, bicycle rides become more and more enticing. Whether they are used as a necessary means of transportation, or just for a leisurely ride with the family on a Sunday, bicycles become far more common on our roadways in the Spring and Summer months in Florida.

In 2012, there were 726 deaths in the United States involving crashes between bicycles and motor vehicles. That averages out to just shy of two people per day in the course of the year in the United States that pass away as a result of a crash between a bicycle and a motor vehicle. While the numbers represent just over two percent of the total number of people killed and injured in traffic crashes in 2012, “bicycle trips account for only one percent of all trips in the United States.” Bicyclists seem to be over-represented in the crash data. Obviously with 726 deaths per year, there are risks associated with riding a bicycle.

FLORIDA IS THE MOST DEADLY STATE FOR BICYCLE ACCIDENT FATALITIES

Bicycle riding is a very popular hobby in Florida. Therefore, it shouldn't come as a surprise that Florida has the highest bicycle fatality rate (6.56 per million residents), according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. 

Florida law defines a bicycle as a vehicle and bicyclist as a driver. This means that cyclists are granted the same rights and responsibilities while traveling on Florida roadways as those behind the wheels of motor vehicles. They have the right to proceed through green-lights the same as others, just as they are expected to signal turns to other drivers, stopping for stop signs and red lights, riding with the flow of traffic, using lights at night, yielding the right-of-way when entering a roadway and yielding to pedestrians in crosswalks.

When most people think about car accidents, they instantly think of a crash between two motor vehicles. However, the issues faced when a crash occurs between a motor vehicle and a bicycle are very similar. The causes can often be the same in both types of cases. Perhaps the cyclist was under the influence of alcohol, or the driver of the motor vehicle was texting (yes, you can be arrested for Driving Under the Influence in Florida while on a bicycle). And in the cases where a cyclist sustains injuries due to the negligence of a driver of a motor vehicle, the cyclist is entitled to economic and non-economic damages which were caused by the crash.

However, one is not entitled to damages merely by being on a bicycle that is involved in a crash with a motor vehicle. A liability analysis of both parties’ assignable levels of fault must be performed. Therefore, if you or someone you know has been injured in a crash between a bicycle and a motor vehicle, you should seek medical and legal help as soon as possible.

CONTACT EXPEREIENCED FLORIDA INJURY ATTORNEYS DOLMAN LAW GROUP

The Dolman Law Group has an experienced team of investigators who can help determine where negligence has occurred and will investigate every possible cause of a bicyclist’s injuries. Their experienced and skilled attorneys represent personal injury victims only and never represent insurance companies. They know how to negotiate a settlement and are not afraid to take a case to trial if a fair resolution cannot be achieved. Call the Dolman Law Group today to schedule a free consultation and case evaluation at 727-451-6900.

800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765
727-451-6900

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Holiday Drinking and Driving and Its Disastrous Effects

It’s always five o’clock somewhere. With Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, and even the Super Bowl in our calendar’s rear-view mirror, one might think that our roadways are that much safer for the next few months. However, there remains another Holiday in the offing of which we must all be aware. Travelers on March 17, 2015 must be ever vigilant of a dangerous threat: St. Patrick’s Day celebrators. The Dolman Law Group has blogged in the past about the dangers of holiday driving.

While such discussions typically evoke ideas of people driving home after one too many at a Christmas party or on New Year’s Eve, it might (or might not) surprise you to learn that Driving Under the Influence arrests on St. Patrick’s Day are just as prevalent as any other holiday.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 32,719 people died in traffic crashes in 2013 in the United States, approximately 31% of which (10,076) were involved in drunk driving crashes.. It is safe to assume that 31% of drivers at any given time are not under the influence of alcohol, and therefore it is not a difficult logical leap to make to say that driving drunk increases the chances that someone will be involved in a motor vehicle accident which results in a fatality. Additionally, crashes in which alcohol plays a role (meaning one or more of the drivers has consumed alcohol not long before the crash) are more likely to result in injuries and deaths than crashes where alcohol is not involved. (http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh27-1/63-78.htm).

Approximately 30% of Americans will be involved in an alcohol-related crash at some time in their lives. While such figures don’t contemplate the seriousness of such an accident, they are jarring nonetheless when one considers what a small proportion of rides are given (to one’s self or to others) while intoxicated relative to simply how many rides are given each year in America. On major drinking holidays, like New Year’s Day, approximately 40% of car accident related fatalities involved alcohol and alcohol-impaired driving in some way.

Contact the Dolman Law Group

Despite your attempts to keep yourself safe, you have been hit by a drunk driver. What now? The first thing you should do (if you are capable) is to gather as much information as you can. Make sure to take a picture of your vehicle and the other vehicle and keep the police report and any other relevant information. If you were rushed to the hospital, this information can easily be recovered, so it is not an issue.

At Dolman Law Group, we understand that choosing an attorney is a big decision that should not be taken lightly. You should not put your trust in just anyone to handle a complex legal matter. If you are thinking of retaining counsel because you were hit by a drunk driver or would like to call to discuss what avenue you should take, please call us at (727) 451-6900.

Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL  33765
727-451-6900


Monday, February 9, 2015

What Types of Experts May Be Used In My Personal Injury Case?

If your personal injury lawsuit heads to trial, often times certain experts will be retained in order to explain our case to the jury. Conversely, the defense will undoubtedly hire their own set of experts to offer countervailing evidence in attempts to dissuade the jury from compensating you for your injuries. So what types of experts are generally used in case where someone is injured as the result of an automobile collision?

Automobile Crash Reconstructionist & Biomechanical Engineers

An automobile crash reconstructionist or biomechanical engineer is often retained by the defense in a low to moderate impact collision case to testify that the force of the impact simply could not have caused the injuries that the plaintiff has sustained. How is this done? Essentially, the expert will attempt to estimate the velocity (speed) of the collision (referred to as “delta V” or “change in velocity”). This calculation is done by trying to quantify the velocity of the vehicle that causes the crash (often referred to as the missile vehicle) and subtracting from that number the velocity of the vehicle that sustains the impact (often called the target vehicle).

So how is the Delta V used in attempts to defeat your claim? The expert will compare the Delta V calculated in your case with different human subject crash tests that are available. Most of these tests have concluded that the threshold for human tolerance is approximately 5 MPH. If the Delta V in your case is less than that, the insurance company will argue that you simply could not have been injured in such a collision.

How is this testimony countered? The key to undermining this type of testimony is to expose the many flaws in the methodology followed to arrive at the conclusion. This starts with looking at how the expert went about determining the velocity of the vehicles involved in the crash in the first instance. Often times this is formulated by guessing and there is no exact means to calculate it. Many times the expert does not physically inspect the vehicles, but relies only on photographs. Even then, only photographs of one vehicle may be available for review. Simply stated, exposing the guesswork conducted by these so called experts is key to undermining and discrediting their testimony.

The Defense Medical Examiner

If you have ever heard of the term “Independent Medical Examiner,” you should note that when used in the context of litigation it is often a misnomer. This is because when a plaintiff is requested to undergo an evaluation by a doctor, it is usually at the request of the defense. In Florida, the defendant is allowed to compel the plaintiff in a personal injury action to undergo what is referred to as a “CME” a “Compulsory Medical Examination,” subject to some restrictions. In the context of a lawsuit brought against your own UM (uninsured/underinsured motorist) carrier, this type of examination is generally included in the terms of your policy and is a prerequisite to recovering benefits.

When retained by the defense, the medical examiner will undoubtedly be hired to provide an opinion that generally follows the same basic format in each case. Especially in low impact cases, the Defense Medical Examiner (DME) will opine that the force of the impact could not have caused the injuries sustained by the plaintiff; that any injuries the plaintiff did sustain should have resolved after 6 – 12 weeks and that any treatment rendered after that time period was unnecessary and unrelated to the crash. Further, the DME will most likely opine that the symptoms that the plaintiff was suffering from following the crash were actually related to prior injuries and—especially in the case of an injury to the spine—were the result of the normal degenerative aging process.

Of course, the DME’s opinions will be in direct contravention with not only the plaintiff’s experts but the plaintiff’s treating physicians as well. Often times the DME will have only conducted a cursory review of the plaintiff’s prior medical records and spent approximately 15-20 minutes speaking to and evaluating the plaintiff.

Life Care Planners

When someone has suffered a catastrophic injury, it is critical that the jury understand the cost of future care and treatment that the plaintiff will require moving forward. To do this, an expert life care planner is often used. The life care planner will be able to testify what the needs of the plaintiff are—such as the projected cost of replacing a wheelchair, medications and other medical necessities as well as the annual cost of medical treatment. A life care planner will be able to organize and quantify the costs associated with each of these in a way that will assist the jury in calculating and providing the plaintiff with the future economic damages required to compensate him or her for her injuries. The defense will attempt to poke holes in the plaintiff’s life care plan by rebutting various claims and attempting to identify areas where they can argue the plaintiff is “overreaching.”

Contact Dolman Law Group

If your case is headed to trial, experts are often required to present the best evidence to support your claims. Litigation and bringing a case to trial can become costly; however, these costs are necessary in order to obtain the most successful outcome at trial and levcel the playing field with the insurance companies. The attorneys at Dolman Law Group understand the significance of retaining and rebutting expert testimony both before and during trial. If you’ve been injured as the result of someone else’s negligence, call 727-451-6900 for more information on how to protect your rights and become compensated for your injuries.

Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765
727-451-6900

Monday, February 2, 2015

What Can I Do to Avoid a Car Crash?

As a plaintiffs’ personal injury attorney, I bring a claim on my client’s behalf after they’ve been injured as the result of someone else’s negligence. Negligence, in the eyes of the law, occurs when someone fails to use the same degree of “reasonable care” as an ordinary cautious person would under the same circumstances. This means that one does not have to act with any malicious intent, or even with a reckless disregard for someone else’s safety in order to be held liable for someone’s injuries. Rather, failing to use reasonable care constitutes negligence and is enough to make you responsible for the injured party’s damages.

The concept of negligence is important because when I evaluate the majority of my cases, it is truly astonishing to see that if the at-fault party had just been more careful—utilized the same degree of reasonable care as an ordinary cautious person would have—then my client would not have sustained injury. Using basic ordinary care while operating a motor vehicle makes all the difference in the world to your own livelihood and the safety and well-being of others who share the road with you. Following a few simple safety tips when you get behind the wheel of your car is all it should take to avoid having to serve as a defendant in a lawsuit or worse, being the victim of a collision. 

1.  Position yourself correctly in your vehicle

Simply making sure you are correctly situated behind the wheel of your car can help to ensure your safety if you are the victim of a car crash and can help you best maneuver and react to sudden changes on the roadways to avoid a collision. Always take care to drive with two hands on the wheel, in the 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock positions. Ensure you are seated close enough to the wheel that your feet are easily able to reach the accelerator and brake. Adjust your headrest according to your height. Be sure to check your side and rear view mirrors before you drive.

2.  Avoid the Fast Lane

Most accidents on highways occur in the fast lane (the far left lane of travel). Try to avoid driving in the fast lane unless you are attempting to pass the vehicle in front of you. More aggressive drivers tend to only drive in the fast lane. Knowing who to avoid on the road is critical. 

3.  Understand the weather conditions

Remember that the definition of negligence is the failure to use reasonable care as an ordinary cautious person would in like circumstances. This means that the circumstances dictate the level of care one should be employing on the roadways. If there is heavy rain, you should not be traveling as fast as you would if it was bright and sunny. Florida law requires you to utilize your headlights in the rain. In inclement weather, it’s essential you adjust the way you drive accordingly. Always take extra care when the weather requires it.

4.  Properly Maintain Your Vehicle 

Your car requires you to keep up on its routine maintenance in order for it to run efficiently. Checking your tire pressure and treads, as well as your oil and battery is important.  Have your vehicle inspected and maintained routinely, even if your state (such as Florida) does not require annual inspection in order to maintain your registration.

5.  Do Not Tailgate and Do Monitor Changes in Traffic Patterns 

Everyone knows not to tailgate, yet many people do. You should keep a 3 second gap between you and the vehicle traveling in front of you. This gap should be increased to 5 seconds in inclement weather. At a stoplight or stop sign, you should be able to see the back wheels of the vehicle in front of you. Leaving an adequate space means that if you are rear ended, you can avoid being inadvertently pushed into the car in front of you as a result of the force. Moreover, should an emergency situation present itself and require you to change your route, you will be able to turn and maneuver your vehicle accordingly. 

Following these few simple guidelines can help prevent you from becoming the victim of car crash, as well as inadvertently causing a crash and ending up having to defend yourself in a lawsuit. For more information, call the attorneys at Dolman Law Group, 727-451-6900 or email me, Julia@dolmanlaw.com

800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765
727-451-6900