Articles Posted in Brain Injuries

thWatching the Syracuse University basketball squad get scorched by North Carolina was tough. It seemed that North Carolina just could not miss a shot.  Their three pointers seemed to swoosh in just as easily as their shots from within the paint.  And SU?  They could not seem to even score a foul shot.  Where was the miraculous Syracuse team we saw only a few days ago pull off an amazing come-from-behind victory over number-one ranked Virginia?

Yes, despite playing their heart out, the SU team lost.

Every good personal injury lawyer knows the feeling.  That’s because good personal injury lawyers sometimes try tough cases, where the odds are stacked against them.  They take risks.  And sometimes they lose.

lady justiceThey say that justice is blind, but anyone who believes that is truly blind. Examples of inherent bias in our judicial system abound. For example, blacks get the death penalty and heavy sentences far more often than whites for the same crimes. Poor people – who can’t afford a “dream team” of lawyers and instead rely on assigned counsel — have far less success in court than their wealthier “lawyered up” counterparts.

And unfairness does not plague just our criminal justice system. Our civil justice system is also contaminated with it. Although statistics are not available locally, it is common belief among the local bar in Central New York that if you are black, poor, excessively overweight or just plain ugly, you are likely to get a smaller money award in your New York personal injury or medical malpractice case than if you are white, well-off, thin and good-looking. That’s why most competent personal injury trial lawyers will talk to a jury – in the jury selection process – about these prejudices, and try to weed out of the jurors who are more likely affected by them.

Like it or not, judges and juries are just regular people with regular prejudices. But courts – and your lawyer – nevertheless have a duty to try to combat them – to even out the scales of justice. A recent case illustrates this.

brain.jpgI tried a traumatic brain injury case about a year and a half ago in Syracuse, New York. Although I got a “verdict”, it was not the one I wanted. The jury did not think my client was very hurt, and thus awarded him a lot less than we believe he deserved and needed.

Misery loves company. Traumatic brain injury cases are statistically among the toughest to win for a plaintiff’s lawyer, as a very recent – and well reported — Syracuse New York brain injury verdict bears out.

Before I go into the case, why is this kind of case so tough? The symptoms of mild traumatic brain injury are often “invisible” to a jury: headaches, cognitive slowdown, depression, blurred vision, memory or concentration problems, mood swings, confusion, and balance issues. Nothing you can show the jury on an MRI slide.

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.

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.

I have two TBI (traumatic brain injury) cases going to trial next spring. 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.

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.

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).

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.