Articles Posted in Brain Injuries/TBI

A peculiar accident on an Eastern Kentucky school bus has left the bus attendant hospitalized in critical condition and transportation authorities conducting an investigation. With school children recently returning to class and the big yellow buses resuming their routes, it’s a good time for everyone – students, parents and school district employees alike – to review the rules for safe school bus transportation.

The accident occurred August 14, around 4:00 p.m. A school bus had picked up students at an elementary school and was en route to a middle school for more students. A clipboard stored under the dashboard fell onto the stairs at the front exit of the bus, prompting the bus monitor to leave her seat and step into the stairwell to retrieve the clipboard. The driver briefly took his eyes off the road to watch the attendant, but it was long enough to cause the bus to veer out of the lane. When the driver realized they were headed for some mailboxes, he jerked the bus to the left, causing the monitor to lose her balance and fall against the closed doors. The doors opened and the attendant fell on to the road and rolled into a ditch, unconscious. She was airlifted to a hospital and remains in critical condition.

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UFO Dangers

When we think injuries suffered in a motor vehicle accident, we generally think of those caused by the impact from an outside force – another car or truck, or a tree or highway sign. We’re not surprised that some injuries are a result of a hard blow with a portion of the vehicle itself – the steering wheel, windshield, or even airbags. But what frequently causes injury to occupants of a wrecked vehicle are flying objects. They’re not exactly “unidentified” flying objects, because we all know what they are – cell phones, purses, laptops, groceries, golf clubs – anything that is loose in the passenger compartment. We’ll call them “unsecured flying objects.”

The Physics of a Car Crash

A car crash may be thought of as having two phases: a first is the collision between the vehicle and other objects; then there is a second collision between the occupants and the vehicle itself or other objects inside the vehicle. It’s a double whammy.

When a vehicle suddenly decelerates, the force of gravity causes unsecured objects inside the vehicle to continue moving. The force with which an unrestrained object hits something in a crash is dependent on numerous factors, including its speed and mass. In calculating crash forces, a force of 20 times the weight of the object is frequently used because it typifies the forces which are present in a moderate crash. Loose things inside the vehicle become projectiles that can cause serious injuries or death.

Here are some scenarios to consider:

You’re on your way to the airport. Your suitcase weighing 44 pounds (well under the limit for checked baggage) is lying in the back of the van. You’re not even on the highway yet, traveling a moderate speed when a truck runs a red light and causes a collision. You’re wearing your seat belt and the airbags deploy, preventing serious injury. But that suitcase becomes a UFO that packs a punch of 880 pounds, and you’re probably not going to make that flight or any other one. This is why airlines insist that you stow your carry-on in the overhead compartment.

A 2011 European study conducted by Goodyear Dunlop found that, in the event of a car accident occurring at 32 miles per hour, an 18 pound dog can strike front seat passengers with a weight of up to 882 pounds. They also reported that a glass bottle, laptop or toy kept in the back of the car will hit the front passenger with up to 50 times its own bodyweight in a collision at 50 mph.

Australia’s National Roads and Motorists Association claims that if you brake suddenly while traveling at 31 mph, groceries in the back seat will hit you with the same force as if they had fallen from a two-story building.

Identifying a UFO

It really doesn’t take much imagination to come up with a list of objects typically carried loose in a car, van, SUV or truck. Next time you’re on a routine errand or outing, just take a look around your vehicle and see if you’re toting any of these things without giving a thought to their potential to cause injury in the event of a crash: cellphones, purses, briefcases, computers, tablets, GPS devices, pets, tool boxes, suitcases, sports equipment, books, storage bins, backpacks, umbrellas, toys, strollers, groceries, CDs or DVDs, video games, trash, musical instruments, weapons . . . the list goes on and on.

And one of the most dangerous types of UFOs is people who are not wearing a seat belt. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association concluded that if you are in a car crash, your chance of dying increases by as much as 25 percent when another person in the same car is not strapped in.

Serious Injuries/Fatalities from UFOs

In an ongoing study, State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company and The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia determined that of 12,513 children injured by something inside the vehicle, over 3,000 collided with loose objects, other passengers or both.

In October of 2010, a mother and her two-year-old had driven only a block from their home when another car, going straight in a left-turn lane, hit them at 45 mph. She was able to get out and go to her screaming son, whose scalp had been peeled back by the soft-spout sippy cup he had with him. His skull was fractured in three places, requiring more than 200 internal and 200 external stitches. The main muscle in his forehead was severed and not able to be repaired, so he will never have movement of his forehead muscles.

In July of 2000, the Miller family of California thought buckling up would keep them safe in their Dodge Durango. But an oncoming small pickup truck decided to pass traffic and hit them head on. Mom and Dad were injured from the impact. Their one-year-old son was protected by his car seat but suffered a skull fracture when their cell phone flew through the air and hit him, landing the child in intensive care for ten days.

In July 1996, a mother in Sulphur Springs, Texas, loaded her 1994 Dodge minivan with her two young children in the second seat. On the floor in the back were nearly 300 pounds of boxed books. When the mother lost control of the vehicle, the minivan went nose-first into a dry creek bed. The crash propelled the books into the steel legs of the second-row seat with thousands of pounds of force, obliterating the seat legs. One child was flung headfirst into the rear of the front seat, killing her.

UFO Injuries on the Rise

We spend a lot of time in our vehicles. American drivers log an average of 13,476 miles per year, or 37 miles a day, so our vehicles have become family rooms on wheels. And the design of the vehicles we own probably contributes to the problem of injury by UFO. Increasingly we’re buying SUVs, minivans and station wagons—all lacking standard cargo trunks – where everything goes into one open compartment.

A July 16, 2014, article in Automotive News reports that for the first time SUV and crossover sales have exceeded those of sedans. SUVs and crossovers combined accounted for 36.5 percent of the U.S. light-vehicle market so far this year, compared with the sedan segment’s 35.4 percent share.

This means it’s increasingly important for consumers to be aware of and address the problem of UFOs in their vehicles.

Protecting your Family from UFO Dangers

There are a number of possible solutions for the problem of safely carrying things in the car. Utilize all secured storage spaces, such as your glove box or front armrest and center console compartments, and use seat-back and door pockets. Get a cargo barrier that’s been crash tested and will bolt into the frame of your auto. Use safety features such as grocery-bag hooks, compartments and tie-down anchors. Place larger, heavier items against the back seats to prevent them from building momentum if they are thrust forward in a crash.

Leave at home objects you don’t need for your trip. This includes booster seats if the kids aren’t riding with you. (Alternatively, you can securely fasten down the empty booster.)

Most importantly, make sure every person (and pet) in the car is securely strapped in.

The Louthian Law Firm

From our office in Columbia, we’ve been helping injured South Carolinians since 1959, way before the advent of cellphones and SUVs. We’re family-owned and family-focused, here to help your family in the event of a car crash injury or fatality. Call us at 1-888-440-3211.

South Carolina Parasailing Safety

Approximately 3.8 million people enjoy the sport of parasailing each year, according to Parasail.org. It’s one of the fastest growing adventure sports, available at nearly all of the major coastline tourist areas. There are approximately 240 parasail companies in the United States, with more than 650 boats providing a seagull’s view of sandy shores. Thrilling . . . but how safe is it?

The Parasail Safety Council, which has tracked injuries and deaths from the activity, reports that in the U.S. 73 people were killed and at least 1,600 injured between 1982 and 2012. That’s a low accident rate, but when a parasailing mishap does occur, it can be terrifying, with lifelong results.

You may recall the horrific accident in Panama City, Florida, in July of 2013 that was caught on video and viewed worldwide. Two teenage girls took a tandem parasail ride that had a tragic end. The tow line to the boat snapped, leaving the pair at the mercy of a gusting wind which slammed them into the 13th floor of a condominium complex and propelled them into power lines before they crashed into cars parked below. Both girls were hospitalized in critical condition in Florida and then were transferred to a facility in Indianapolis for rehabilitation. One girl’s spine was cracked and she sustained brain trauma that has left her with double vision and loss of peripheral vision. Her friend has had three cranial surgeries and extensive spinal surgery since the accident. She lost a large portion of her skull and still struggles with balance, mobility and learning.

An investigation by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, the U.S. Coast Guard and the National Transportation Safety Board made the following findings regarding the Panama City accident, which are instructive to all of us as we assess the safety of parasail adventures for our own families:

  • The wind conditions on the day of the accident far exceeded the safety recommendations on the parasail equipment. The manufacturer’s label on the 39-foot parasail warned that it was not intended for use in winds of more than 12 mph, but on the Coast Guard estimated that on the afternoon of the accident wind speeds were more than 20 mph with gusts of 31 mph. In fact, other parasail operators had ceased operations for the day because of an approaching storm front that was visible on radar and with the naked eye.
  • The boat and winch system, made in 1998, was designed for parasails smaller than the 39-footer used in the accident. Once the winds picked up, the winch was not strong enough to pull the riders back in.
    • The boat captain did not adhere to recommendations about distance from shore while parasailing.
  • Coast Guard guidelines recommend a minimum of 2,000 feet from shore in wind conditions from 0-10 mph, and 5,000 feet in wind conditions of more than 20 mph.

Who regulates parasailing? The federal government controls it to a limited extent, through the Coast Guard and the FAA, which has issued altitude limitations to 400 feet for all commercial parasail operations. Only two states – Virginia and New Jersey – have passed laws regulating the activity. A new bill has passed the Florida legislature and is expected to be signed by the governor. Advocates of parasailing regulation have been attempting to get something passed in Florida for four years. The measure which appears to be headed for enactment would require the following:

  • Parasailing companies would have to have at least $1 million in insurance.
  • Parasailing must cease when winds reach a speed of more than 20 mph and when lightning is within 7 miles.
  • Parasail boats would have to have a U.S. Coast Guard license and be equipped with weather radar with real-time forecasts.
  • There would be limitations on parasail canopy size.
  • Canopies, passenger support systems and tow lines would have mandatory replacement dates based on number of flights or age.

The family of one of the girls injured in the Panama City accident has filed a lawsuit against the parasail operator (Aquatic Adventures Management Group), its owner and the Treasure Island Resort. It alleges the operators negligently ignored dangerous weather conditions, used unsafe equipment, and were too close to shore. They seek compensation for past medical costs, future medical expenses including surgeries, and loss of companionship.

Can any amount of money return these girls to their pre-accident days of carefree living? Of course not. But perhaps it will help provide rehabilitation and therapy that will make the rest of their days a bit easier. That’s the goal of personal injury lawyers, including those at The Louthian Law Firm. If an owner’s or operator’s negligence resulted in an injury to someone in your family, call the Columbia amusement injury attorneys at 888-440-3211.

If you’re like most parents nowadays, you’re looking every year for something to make your child’s birthday party special. Pin the Tail on the Donkey gave way long ago to more adventurous activities, things like the increasingly popular bounce house, set up in your own backyard by one of thousands of party rental companies. Kids think they’re loads of fun, and parents assume they’re safe . . . that is, until an accident happens and a child is injured or killed. You should be aware that injuries on inflatable amusement structures are not uncommon.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) estimates that more than 4,000 emergency room visits a year in the United States are linked to inflatables. Bounce houses (also known as moonbounces) cause the vast majority of injuries, but they’re not the only inflatable amusement attractions. Slides, obstacle courses, climbing walls and interactive (such as boxing or jousting) inflatables also feature in the accident statistics.

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Columbia Zip line Accident

Is a zip line ride on your bucket list? Are you planning to include an aerial adventure in your summer vacation plans, maybe on one of the lines in Myrtle Beach or crossing the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina? Spend a little time inquiring about the company’s safety and inspection policies. The Redwoods Group Foundation provides risk analysis and insurance for camps, community centers and playgrounds. They encourage scrutiny of zip lines from the standpoint of design, installation, maintenance and supervision.

“They are spreading like fast-food hamburger joints.” That’s what Mike Teske told the Los Angeles Times, and he wasn’t talking about nail salons. Teske is the technical director for a zip line company, and he also heads a panel drafting national safety standards for zip lines. Zip lines are the latest commercial adventure craze, offering thrills to at least 18 million people each year, according to the Association for Challenge Course Technology (ACCT).

Read Full Article   |   South Carolina Personal Injuries

For four years now, April has been designated Parkinson’s Awareness Month by resolution of the U.S. Senate. We’d like to make you aware of some of the issues surrounding Parkinson’s and how Louthian Law might assist you or a loved one afflicted with the disease.

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What is Parkinson’s disease?

Parkinson’s disease is a neurological disorder which affects motor functioning. The symptoms include shaking (tremors), rigidity of muscles, problems with walking, difficulty speaking or an inability to speak, diminished higher brain functions, loss or slowing of physical movement, and depression.

How common is Parkinson’s?

As many as one million individuals in the U.S. are living with Parkinson’s disease. There are 50,000 new cases each year. Approximately four percent of people with Parkinson’s are diagnosed before the age of 50, but incidence increases with age. In fact, it is estimated that 1 to 2 percent of the population over the age of 65 suffers from Parkinson’s disease.

Is Parkinson’s disease fatal?

The disease itself is not fatal, but people who have Parkinson’s often die at a relatively young age because they are more susceptible to choking, contracting pneumonia, and having accidents. The symptoms do get worse over time, with decades sometimes passing before the disease is clinically diagnosed.

What causes Parkinson’s disease?

While the cause is unknown, many experts think that Parkinson’s is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) – from vehicle accidents, falls, or sports injuries — also increase the risk of developing the disease.

What things in the environment could increase one’s risk?

Epidemiological research has identified several factors that may be linked to Parkinson’s, including contaminated well water, some insecticides and herbicides, and occupational exposure to certain chemicals. In 2009, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs added Parkinson’s to a list of diseases possibly associated with exposure to Agent Orange.

Exposure to the industrial solvent trichloroethylene (TCE) appears to greatly increase the risk of Parkinson’s disease. One study found that exposure to TCE may result in a six-fold increase in the risk of developing PD. A 2011 study led by researchers at The Parkinson’s Institute pointed out the “considerable public health implications” of the fact that TCE has been detected in up to 30 percent of the nation’s drinking water supplies.

How does TCE get into the water supply? TCE is a common agent in paints, adhesives, carpet cleaners, dry-cleaning solutions and degreasing solvents. In the United States, millions of pounds of TCE are released into the environment each year.

TCE contamination of drinking water has been the subject of concern here in South Carolina. The compound was used extensively at Shaw AFB in the aircraft degreasing process. Contaminated groundwater has been found in six locations, identified by the government as sites FT001, OT-16B, OT-16C, SS-35, SS-36 and CG-38. Clean-up efforts have reduced the off-base affected area from 211 acres to 105.

For more than a decade, electronics manufacturer AVX illegally dumped groundwater laced with TCE into Myrtle Beach’s sewer. The company signed a consent order with the Department of Health and Environmental Control to clean up the site, and numerous lawsuits have been filed.

How can the Louthian Law Firm help someone with Parkinson’s disease?

As personal injury attorneys, our job is to seek justice for those who have been harmed by the negligence of another person or corporate entity. Car accident victims who suffer traumatic brain injuries may have lifelong disabilities, including neurological disorders. Motor vehicle accidents comprise a large part of our case load, and we are proud to advocate for those harmed by drunk or distracted drivers. You might want to read about those services here.

We also handle litigation involving pollution and environmental damage such as that found in Cannons Campground.

Finally, our firm helps people with the Social Security disability process. Most people in the early stages of Parkinson’s are still able to work, but the tremors and loss of movement control may expose some workers to a higher risk of injury. If Parkinson’s disease affects one’s ability to earn a living, the disability benefits available through SSDI may provide some security for the family. It is important that the progression of the disease be well documented in the worker’s medical records.

With eight decades of combined legal experience, the Louthian Law Firm of Columbia, SC, knows about the difficulties a prolonged illness or debilitating condition can cause. Call us at 888-440-3211.

Sometimes it takes a mental picture to get across an important message. Try this one: Visualize the end zone of USC’s or Clemson’s football stadium; now imagine that 3 out of every 4 seats are occupied by individuals who have a permanent disability due to a traumatic brain injury. That’s how many South Carolina residents are living with physical, cognitive and behavioral limitations due to a TBI which they survived . . . 61,000 in the state of South Carolina.

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Did you know?

  • When installed and used correctly, car seats and restraints can reduce fatal injury by up to 71% for infants and 54% for toddlers.
  • 7 out of 10 child safety seats are not installed correctly.
  • Of the children who died in a crash in 2011, 33% were not buckled up.
  • Children 2 to 5 years of age who are allowed to ride with just a seat belt are 4 times more likely to suffer a serious head injury in a crash than those in car safety seats or booster seats.

baby-seat-safety
We wrote here about proposed revisions to car seat regulations, which would require more protection from side-impact crashes. Regardless of the regulations, however, if you don’t use the appropriate device, or install it correctly or properly position your child in it, you won’t be getting the full benefit of the device. Here are some tips.

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There are many things responsible parents do to protect their children, including buckling them in when riding in the car. Statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) show that motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death for children between one and 13 years of age.

Columbia SC Child Safety

More than a third of children under age 13 who died in passenger vehicle crashes in 2011 were not in car seats or wearing seat belts. You know that these parents’ grief was complicated by regret that they did not insist that their child be safely restrained. Sixty percent of crashes involving children occur ten minutes or less away from home, so they should be buckled up even for short trips.

Children should be kept in car seats or booster seats until they are 12 years old or of sufficient size to wear a regular seat belt. You can find the specific age and size recommendations here: http://www.safercar.gov/parents/RightSeat.htm

In the news this third week of January 2014 is the recommendation of NHTSA that standards be upgraded for car seats designed for children weighing up to 40 pounds. If the proposed regulation is adopted, child car seats would for the first time have to protect children from death and injury in side-impact crashes. New car seats in this category would have to pass a test simulating a T-bone crash where a vehicle going 30 mph strikes a smaller vehicle going 15 mph.

For many years, safety advocates have sought tougher standards for children’s car seats to protect against side-impact crashes. The current regulations for child restraint systems are found in Section 571.213 of the Code of Federal Regulations (http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/rules-regulations/administration/fmcsr/fmcsrruletext.aspx?reg=571.213). The new regulation proposed by NHTSA won’t take effect immediately. The public will have 90 days to comment on the proposed regulations, then the agency will review the comments and address issues which might be raised; after that, car sear manufacturers will have three years to meet the new requirements.

In the meantime, parents must simply do their best to provide their children with car seats and booster seats that meet current guidelines and must be vigilant about their use. The American Academy of Pediatrics publishes a listing of car seats which meet federal safety standards as of 2013. It is here: http://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/on-the-go/Pages/Car-Safety-Seats-Product-Listing.aspx

Additionally, here are some tips that could help you determine if you are using the best protection while transporting your children:

  • Never use a car seat that is too old. That bargain you picked up at a yard sale may be outdated and have outlived the manufacturer’s recommended usage.
  • Discard a child restraint device if it has any visible cracks in it.
  • You need to read the instructions so you can install and use the seat properly. A used device probably won’t come with instructions.
  • Do not use a car seat that was recalled. Recalls for the last ten years can be found here: http://www-odi.nhtsa.dot.gov/recalls/childseat.cfm

The federal regulations setting standards for car seats are aimed at manufacturers. However, state laws are aimed at drivers, and a violation of South Carolina’s Child Passenger Safety Seat Law can land you with a $150 fine. This state law is found in Section 56-5-6410. It requires “an appropriate child passenger restraint system” for children 5 years of age or younger. The law gives specifics according to age and weight and states whether the seat must be backward or forward facing. The South Carolina law can be found here: http://www.scdhec.gov/administration/library/CR-008006.pdf

As South Carolina’s law states, “Child safety seats are the most effective occupant protection devices used in motor vehicles today. If used correctly, they are 71 percent effective in reducing fatalities in children under the age of 5 and 69 percent effective in reducing the need for hospitalization.”

Some of us remember the days when kids piled into the family station wagon and were concerned only with complaining that a sibling was unfairly taking up too much of the seat. But the “good old days” weren’t good in all ways, and we need to take advantage of the modern safety requirements imposed on manufacturers of car seats and other consumer goods.

Any surgery has risks, even those we think of as routine. We often don’t think twice about scheduling some procedures for our children because they are so common they seem to be harmless; and, of course, the vast majority of us would never knowingly subject our children to harm. But even “routine” surgeries can have complications, as these recent news reports show.

South Carolina Surgery Mistakes

A 13-year-old girl in California was declared brain dead three days after undergoing a routine tonsil removal surgery in December 2013. The child’s physician recommended the surgery because she suffered from sleep apnea. During the patient’s recovery, she experienced excessive bleeding and trouble breathing, went into cardiac arrest and was declared brain dead. Whether or not she will remain on life support is a continuing issue before the courts.

Tonsillectomy is the most common surgical procedure in children. More than half a million tonsillectomies are performed in the United States each year. According to The Journal of Family Practice, mortality rates for the operation range from 1 in 10,000 to 1 in 35,000. The most common complication is postoperative bleeding, which usually occurs within the first 24 hours after surgery. About 1 in 200 patients is returned to the OR so that bleeding can be controlled. Other complications can include pain, nausea and vomiting. Many tonsillectomies are performed on an outpatient basis, but the Journal recommends that patients with sleep apnea, coagulation disorders, or other underlying diseases, and anyone younger than 4 years of age or living a long distance from the hospital should be admitted for overnight observation.

Earlier this year, in February, another teenaged patient died after a routine tonsillectomy at a surgical center. After the surgery, she was given Fentanyl, a strong narcotic pain reliever known to depress respiration. Her failing respiratory condition went unnoticed and she sustained significant brain damage due to oxygen deprivation. She died 15 days later. The family filed a medical malpractice case against the surgical center and received $6 million in settlement.

Another common surgical procedure for children and young adults is the removal of wisdom teeth. In March of 2013, a 24-year-old California man died unexpectedly after undergoing this routine oral procedure in a doctor’s office. A former football player, he had no known health problems. During the procedure, the patient woke up coughing, so he was given more anesthesia. (The medical records later showed he received five kinds of sedative medications, including propofol.) He went into cardiac arrest. Responding EMTs took him to a hospital, where he died three days later.

Another death from the administration of propofol during wisdom tooth surgery occurred in 2011, when a 13-year-old girl from Ohio died of brain damage. She never awoke from the sedation given in the doctor’s office. The girl was taken to a hospital, where she died two weeks later. The parents won a $1 million settlement in a personal injury lawsuit.

In April 2012, a 17-year-old Maryland girl went to her doctor for removal of her wisdom teeth. Just 15 minutes after the procedure began, she experienced respiratory complications. Her brain was severely damaged and she died 10 days later. The oral surgeon and the anesthesiologist were named in a lawsuit, which was settled for a confidential sum.

Although these kinds of tragic outcomes are rare, there are some important questions to ask your doctor or dentist before you or your child has a “routine” surgical procedure:

• Is the office the right setting for the procedure, or are there medical issues that might make it safer to go to the hospital?
• Who will be giving sedation or anesthesia?
• What type of sedation or anesthesia will be used?
• Will someone other than the surgeon be monitoring blood pressure, heart rate and breathing? (The answer should be yes.)
• Is equipment available if the patient stops breathing?
• Is someone on staff certified in Advanced Cardiac Life Support?
• What is the doctor’s plan in case of emergency?
• Who will monitor the patient’s recovery and supervise their discharge?

If you or someone you care about has suffered complications from a “routine” procedure, contact the Louthian Law Firm today by using our online form or call toll free at 888-662-0434 or locally at 803-454-1200. We have been helping injured people find justice since 1959.