Articles Posted in Brain Injuries/TBI

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).

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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.

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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.

 

Twice recently I have written about sports injuries — here http://www.louthianlaw.com/blog/2013/09/field-safety/ and here http://www.louthianlaw.com/blog/2013/07/brain-injury-teens-uncommon-2/.

Cheerleading Brain Injuries

But a recent accident with my own child caused me to take an even closer look, through the lens of my family’s experience. My 12-year-old daughter, who is in the seventh grade, is on the junior varsity cheerleading squad at A.C. Flora High School in Columbia. In addition to cheering at games, they compete in cheerleading contests.

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Teen Head Injury, Brain TraumaYou may have seen the old Bill Cosby comedy routine in which he explains the goofy way little kids act as being on account of “brain damage.” It’s a funny routine, but brain injury is no laughing matter, and a recent survey shows our teens may be suffering more concussions than we realized.

The Canadian survey, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that 20% of Canadian teenagers report having had a traumatic brain injury (TBI) at some point in their life. More than half occurred as a result of a sports injury.

In this study, TBI was defined as “an acquired head injury in which the student was unconscious for at least 5 minutes or hospitalized overnight.” The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) defines a concussion more broadly, as “a type of TBI caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head that can change the way your brain normally works.” We might project that if the Canadian teens were not limited to reporting only head injuries of more than 5 minutes’ duration or requiring overnight hospitalization (i.e., using the CDC broader description instead), the percentage having had a TBI would be vastly greater than 20%.
As you might expect, the Canadian survey indicated that more than half of these TBI incidents were from sports, such as ice hockey, skateboarding, and soccer. In South Carolina, every year there are 1,165 non-fatal TBI cases related to sports/recreation, according to the state Department of Health and Environmental Control.

Millions of girls and boys play team sports like hockey, soccer, lacrosse and football where blows to the head from collisions and falls are part of the game. And it doesn’t take one major impact to cause a damage to the brain; a series of smaller jolts can result in head injuries as well.

We want our children to benefit from the physical activity involved in sports, as well as the less obvious benefits of learning teamwork, good sportsmanship, and a competitive spirit. Naturally, we don’t want them to suffer the effects of a brain injury, which can be both immediate and long-lasting. The journal Brain Injury reported a study which showed that concussions can impair short-term memory in teens for at least six months, and these symptoms are worse in teens than kids or adults. Researchers from Ohio State University found that concussion-related memory problems in children aged 8 to 15 can last even a year after the concussion occurred.

If your child plays a sport in which concussions are a possibility, make sure the team’s coach is experienced and one who discourages unsafe play. He or she should be aware of and watching for the symptoms of concussion. South Carolina has a new youth-concussion law on the books, which will be in place for the 2013-2014 school year. It requires distribution of information to players and coaches, but does not mandate concussion training for coaches or trainers.

Both parents and athletic officials should be aware of the signs and symptoms of a concussion:
* Being dazed, confused, or stunned
* Experiencing a brief loss of consciousness
* Headache
* Dizziness
* Memory loss
* Tiredness or listlessness
* Irritability or crankiness
* Changes in eating or sleep patterns
* Loss of balance or unsteady walking
* Vomiting.

Is there an app for that? Actually there are several apps to help screen athletes when a concussion is suspected. See more here: http://www.brainline.org/content/2011/07/top-4-concussion-screener-apps-for-athletes.html
If your child suffers a traumatic brain injury which should have been preventable, the Louthian Law Firm will be glad to advise you. Call 888-662-2897 or 803-454-1200.