Recently in Brain Injuries Category

October 19, 2012

"Do I Really Have To Wear A Helmet When I Bike, Dad?" Maybe not, says Central NY Bike Accident Lawyer

bicycle helmets.jpgAs a Central Syracuse NY bike accident lawyer, I have seen first hand some nasty head injuries from fallen bicyclists. So I was not very understanding last April when my 13 year-old son informed me that it was so totally uncool to wear a helmet on a bike that he would rather not ride at all than put one on. Didn't I know that only nerds wear helmets? And didn't I know that if his buddies in our city (Geneva, NY) ever caught him riding with a helmet on he would be a laughing stock? Was I trying to ruin his life or something?!

I said, "nice rant, now put your helmet on.." And he said, "no helmet, no way".

I figured he would eventually cave. But he didn't. For a full month he did not ride his bike at all. When I finally realized that he meant what he said, that he would not "get caught dead with a helmet on", I capitulated. I let him ride his bike without a helmet.

Irresponsible parenting? Maybe. But my thinking was that I would rather accept the relatively small risk of him getting a head injury from a bike fall than accept the certain downside of his not getting good exercise by riding his bike all summer.

Then just last week I ran across a New York Times article that hit home. It made me realize that I was not alone in my "helmet dilemma". The New York Times reported that all successful city bike-sharing programs around the world (like the velib in Paris) have one thing in common --- no helmets required. By contrast, city bike-sharing programs with a mandatory helmet rule -- like the one in Melbourne, Australia -- have all failed.

The Times reporter explains::

In the United States the notion that bike helmets promote health and safety by preventing head injuries is taken as pretty near God's truth. Un-helmeted cyclists are regarded as irresponsible, like people who smoke. . . . On the other hand, many researchers say, if you force or pressure people to wear helmets, discourage them from riding bicycles. That means more obesity, heart disease and diabetes. And -- Catch-22 -- a result is fewer ordinary cyclists on the road, which makes it harder to develop a safe bicycling network.

Will I continue to wear a helmet myself when I bike? You betcha. And will I continue to try to convince my son to wear one, too? Absolutely. But will I suffer to see him not ride around town at all because he has to wear one? No I won't! Life is like that. Sometimes our ideals must give way to reality . . .

Keep safe!

Mike Bersani

Email me at: bersani@michaels-smolak.com I'd love to hear from you!

Michael G. Bersani, Esq.
michaels-smolak.com
Central and Syracuse NY Bike Accident Lawyers
Michaels & Smolak, P.C.

1-315-253-3293

May 30, 2012

Traumatic Brain Injury Trials Require Advanced Preparation, Central NY Injury Lawyer Says

Thumbnail image for brain.jpgI have two TBI (traumatic brain injury) cases going to trial early next year. In both cases, the defense claims my clients have suffered no TBI at all, or else it was mild, and resolved long ago. In both cases my clients own physicians and traumatic brain injury specialists have the client totally disabled.

TBI cases are complex and often vigorously defended. Because you can't "see" a traumatic brain injury, defense lawyers often try to convince the jury that the injured plaintiff does not have it. They try to convince the jury that the symptoms (which can include concentration problems, headache, dizziness or loss of balance, sensory problems, such as blurred vision, ringing in the ears, fatigue, mood changes or mood swings, depression and anxiety fatigue or drowsiness) are being faked, or else stem from pre-existing depression.

So this Central and Syracuse New York personal injury lawyer has already started beefing up. This past March the American Association for Justice hosted a "Traumatic Brain Injury Litigation Group Meeting", which I could not attend. BUT, I have ordered the DVD and course materials. They are sitting on my desk, right now, staring at me, just begging to be viewed. As they sit there, I can almost sense the pearls of wisdom from other TBI lawyers emanating from them.

Some folks might say, hey, you aren't trying those cases till 2013, so why are you getting ready now? Here's why: After reviewing the medical records and the course materials, I may decide to hire an expert medical professional to examine my clients and then to testify at trial regarding their TBI. That will take some lead time, which I will need to schedule the expert for my trials. The best experts' calendars fill up quickly. The early bird gets the worm!

Keep safe!

Mike Bersani

Email me at: bersani@michaels-smolak.com I'd love to hear from you!

Michael G. Bersani, Esq.
michaels-smolak.com
Central NY Traumatic Brain Injury Lawyers
Michaels & Smolak, P.C.

1-315-253-3293


March 31, 2012

Brain Injured Snowmobile Accident Victim Paints For CNY Injury Lawyer.

20120331_145723.jpgSome of our former Central and Syracuse New York personal injury clients become lifelong friends. One example is Mary. Even six years or so after we settled her case, she keeps in touch, stops by the office, and emails us regularly.

Mary suffered a terrible traumatic brain injury ("TBI").. She was a passenger in a snowmobile that collided with another snowmobile. About 6 years ago, my partner, David Kalabanka, got her a 7 figure settlement against the responsible party's insurance carrier and worked out a structured settlement that will pay her several millions of dollars, in monthly installments, over the rest of her life. David did an awesome job representing her.

Mary can't work a conventional job. No one would hire her. Her brain injury has left her noticeably "different". She talks with an unsettling voice and intonation. She speaks whatever she thinks, and this, of course, is not socially acceptable. She sees double, too.

It's easy to take advantage of Mary, and many people do. Why? She has a big heart, a good monthly income (from the structured settlement), likes helping, is lonely, and wants friends. Her brain injury has left her without a healthy skepticism about people's selfishness. It's easy to talk her into buying you stuff. And doing free work. She'll clean your house, or paint it, for free, just to be your friend.

Mary likes to paint. My wife and I needed our bathroom and kitchen repainted. So we invited her over. Here she is, in the photo, removing the wallpaper from our bathroom. She offered to do the job for free, which will take about a week, but I of course insisted on paying her the going rate. I just hope she spends it on herself and not on what others talk her into buying them.

By the way, "Mary" is not her real name. I am so afraid people will take advantage of her that I have changed her name and used a photo that does not show her face.

Keep safe!

Mike Bersani

Email me at: bersani@michaels-smolak.com I'd love to hear from you!

Michael G. Bersani, Esq.

michaels-smolak.com
Central NY Traumatic Brain Injury Lawyers
Michaels & Smolak, P.C.

1-315-253-3293

October 16, 2011

Phoenix football player's death - Is a New York Wrongful Death Lawsuit Possible?

helmet.jpgSixteen-year old Phoenix football player Ridge Barden died from a massive subdural hematoma, or in laymen's terms, lots of blood on the brain. As the father of a 15-year old boy, the horror and grief of the Barden family is tangible to me. My deepest sympathies go out to his entire family, including his football family.

The damage was caused by helmet-to-helmet contact during a football game between Phoenix and Homer High School in Homer last Friday. The injury, and death, appears to have resulted from a single impact during the game.

This tragic death comes at a time when brain injuries and concussions suffered in youth sports, especially football, are under scrutiny. A lot of people are asking, "are we doing enough to protect our young athletes' heads"? Evidence is emerging to suggest that the helmets players use may not be enough to protect them from serious injuries, despite what some helmet manufacturers want you to believe. (I blogged last January about false claims made by helmet manufacturers that their latest models have reduced the risk of concussions).

Most high schools send their football helmets out to be reconditioned every year, and they have to pass a safety inspection before the season begins.

Is a lawsuit possible in a case like Ridge Barden's? Possible targets of a lawsuit would be: The high school; the helmet manufacturer and the helmet reconditioner.

Assuming the helmet was not defective, in my opinion as a New York personal injury lawyer, no one can, nor should, be sued (please, no one take this as legal advice --- all cases are unique and all facts must be examined before a binding legal opinion can be rendered). A lawsuit on these facts would generally be barred by a legal doctrine known as "primary assumption of the risk". This rule, as articulated repeatedly by New York courts, provides that "by engaging in a sport or recreational activity, a participant is deemed to have consented to those commonly appreciated risks which are inherent in and arise out of the nature of the sport generally and flow from such participation".

Football players, and their parents, know, or should know, that there is a risk, however slight, that they may be seriously injured or die in a sport, such as football, that involves forceful head-on-head contact, albeit with helmet protection. They knowingly, and willingly, accept this risk. The sport has so many benefits --- character building, conditioning, learning to work as part of a team --- that we are willing to accept the risks.

And we should be thankful for this assumption of the risk rule. But for this rule of law, there would be no high school football at all --- lawsuits would shut down the whole sport.

Don't get me wrong --- lawsuits are warranted in some sporting accident cases. As I have explained in previous blog posts, not all sporting injuries are caused by the inherent and assumed risks of the sport (see my prior posts, "What Is A Good New York Sports Injury Case?" and "Assumption Of Risk Doctrine Won't Protect Ski Resort For Falling Chairlifts"). But where the injuries flow directly from one of the know, inherent, risk of the game, all we can, and should, do is grieve the loss of a beautiful young athlete, son, brother, friend and teammate.

Mike Bersani

Email me at: bersani@michaels-smolak.com I'd love to hear from you!

Michael G. Bersani, Esq.
michaels-smolak.com
Central NY Personal Injury Lawyer
Michaels & Smolak, P.C.

1-315-253-3293

August 18, 2010

"Concussions Are More Dangerous Than You Think", Syracuse Brain Injury Lawyer Explains

brain.jpgConcussions used to be a joke. You know, all those cartoons and slap stick movies with people getting knocked out, then waking up and shaking it off as if it were nothing. Ha, ha, ha! Well, it wasn't nothing. It's really something.

So what exactly is a concussion? It is a temporary loss of brain function caused by a blow to the head. That's what we used to think was the end of it. But we now know that it can lead to many long-lasting physical, cognitive and emotional symptoms.

And we are finding out more and more about the hidden damage concussions can cause. Concussions are a kind of TBI (traumatic brain injury) that can lead to life-long disabilities. Take "Lou Gehrig's disease" (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or "ALS") for example. Yesterday's New York Times reported that Lou Gehrig might not have actually had the disease named after him. Rather, he might have had what doctors now understand to be a TBI which manifests itself through symptoms mimicking ALS. The Times reports that those afflicted with the disease probably were predisposed to it by genetic factors, but concussions serve as the catalyst.

In my job as a Syracuse accident lawyer, I see lots of concussions. We have even handled our share of big TBI cases where the accident victim's cognitive and social levels and skills were vastly and permanently diminished by the traumatic brain injury. The worst TBI accident case we have seen was suffered in a Central New York snowmobile collision. But they can happen in many different types of accidents, including car accidents, falls from scaffolds or ladders, and slip and falls.

In Lou Gehrig's day, almost no one wore helmets for anything. Gehrig sustained several "knock-out" concussions from pitches that today would have been absorbed by a helmet. Today, a lot of TBI's can be avoided by using helmets for sporting activities such as skiing, bicycling, motorcycling and baseball.

If you or a loved one has suffered a concussion in a car accident, fall down accident, sporting accident, or other kind of accident, take it seriously. It's not like in the cartoons or the old slap stick movies. You should insist on getting a medical examination if you have any symptoms. You should be monitored for continued symptoms. Usually, the symptoms will go away in a few weeks, but if they persist, or new symptoms arise, you should have a doctor continue to monitor and test you.