Car Accidents

Rear-End Auto Crashes: Aggravation of a Pre-Existing Condition

In the last Blog, we considered the scenario in which a rear-end collision triggered spinal pain and disability because, through the natural aging process, as our spines develop degenerative disc disease (“DDD”), our spines become more susceptible to injury after an impact (read more about degenerative disc disease/DDD here).

spinal injuries from car accident In this Blog, we discuss a different scenario: you already have a pre-existing back condition that is well-managed and you are enjoying life, but suddenly a rear-end impact aggravates your back condition causing it to become unbearable. Do you have a personal injury case? Absolutely!

The attorneys at the law firm of Grazian & Volpe have handled hundreds of auto crash cases and understand the medicine and law dealing with the aggravation of pre-existing injuries. In this Blog, which is part of a series on spinal injuries caused by rear-end auto accidents, we shall use a typical case of an aggravation of a pre-existing injury and explain how such a case is handled.

Aggravation of Pre-Existing Condition

Take the case of a 50-year-old man who goes to his doctor complaining of low back pain, gets an MRI performed, and is diagnosed with a bulging disc. He has occasional pain and discomfort from his bulging disc, but he learns to manage it through physical exercise and maintaining his health to keep his disc from further deteriorating. In other words, he is doing nothing that would, of itself, aggravate, i.e. worsen, his bulging disc. Altogether, his condition is stable and requires neither medication nor surgery.

Enter a negligent 20-something-year-old driver who rear-ends the 50-year-old man at a stop sign while texting a friend. The man now complains of excruciating pain associated with the same bulging disc. His doctor orders another MRI, but the man’s disc appears the same: it hasn’t herniated. Nonetheless, the man still complains of experiencing more pain after the accident than before and he can sit for only half the time that he used to be able to. So, his doctor prescribes him prescription anti-inflammatories and physical therapy and advises he take off work to rest in bed. What happens now?

The Eggshell Plaintiff Rule

In Illinois personal injury law, there is what is called the “Eggshell Plaintiff” rule. The “Eggshell Plaintiff” rule basically means that the defendant, or negligent driver, must take the injured plaintiff as he or she is found. Basically, whatever state the injured plaintiff was in at the time of the accident—that is the state to which he should be returned by means of compensation.

In the case of our 50-year-old man, the law says that he should to be compensated for the aggravation or worsening or his bulging disc. Because the man cannot be physically returned to his pre-accident status, the law provides the monetary compensation for aggravating effect of the collision.

Proving Aggravation of a Pre-Existing Condition

Juries are notorious for having difficulty deciding cases that involve an aggravation of a pre-existing condition. Why? The trial attorney for the injured plaintiff may be inexperienced or unskilled in how to communicate your situation coherently, and there’s nothing worse for your case than a confused jury.

When presenting your case to the jury, your attorneys should strain to make the jury’s deliberations as easy as possible. This means lining up evidence that makes it easy for the jury to gauge the aggravation of your pre-existing injury and to put a value on your pain and suffering.

Every case is different, though, which is to say that the evidence needed or available to prove an aggravation of a pre-existing condition will be different in each case. Prior and post medical records are extremely important: the prior will establish your “baseline,” while the post will demonstrate what aggravation resulted from the accident. Employment records can also be helpful if they show a change in occupation or position that can be tied to the aggravation. An impartial “injury witness” also goes a long way to convincing a jury of the aggravation, particularly when this disinterested witness can attest to your health and activity before and after the accident. Finally, if you participated in hobbies or activities that you had to give up on account of the aggravation, this also is helpful evidence.

Cases involving the aggravation of a pre-existing condition are not the easiest to win. Insurance or defense attorneys know that a lot of discovery work must go into such cases, and oftentimes expert medical witnesses must be called. This tends to add up quickly, subtracts from your ultimate compensation, and discourages some personal injury attorneys from taking such cases.

Nevertheless, all cases are different and you should definitely seek a free consultation before dismissing the possibility of a lawsuit to recover for your aggravation. Only an experienced injury attorney can give you a sense of the strength of your case. Don’t wait: call attorney Kurt D. Lloyd of Grazian & Volpe today at 773.838.8100, or fill out our online form for a free consultation.


The above article was written by Kurt D. Lloyd of Grazian & Volpe. Kurt Lloyd has been practicing personal injury law in the Chicagoland area for over 30 years and has helped his clients win more than $355 million in jury verdicts and settlements from insurance companies and corporations. Kurt helps his injured clients regain their lives after injury. The information provided comes from his extensive legal and medical research and years of experience trying injury cases in courtrooms throughout Illinois.

Rear-End Auto Crashes: Spinal Trauma and Pre-Existing Degenerative Disc Disease (“DDD”)

In a rear-end auto crash, the impact often results in injury to the cervical or lumbar spine. As we each grow older, the impact can cause much more immediate signs and symptoms of a spinal injury, because as we age a normal underlying condition known as Degenerative Disc Disease (“DDD”) can act as a set-up for a spinal injury.

DDD is a natural result of aging: we all have it to greater or lesser extent. But as our spines age normally the majority of us do not experience any pain or limitation from DDD. We remain asymptomatic. Although insurance companies and their defense lawyers know this is a normal phenomenon, they will likely mount a rigorous “Triple-D” defense as the cause of a rear-end accident victim’s pain and disability. That is, defense lawyers will blame normal aging of the spine as the cause of your injuries.

Some personal injury firms might take the bait and make a quick settlement based on the Triple-D defense, but the attorneys at Grazian & Volpe have encountered this misleading defense many times before, and know it can be overcome to get you the full settlement you deserve.

The attorneys at the law firm of Grazian & Volpe have handled hundreds of auto crash cases and understand the medicine related to Degenerative Disc Disease. In this Blog, which is part of a series on spinal injuries caused by auto accidents, we shall explain what DDD is, how it is diagnosed, and what is done to treat a it.


Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD)

degenerative disc disease (DDD) Degenerative Disc Disease is a natural consequence of aging. Everyone experiences DDD to a greater or lesser degree during their life. As the discs between the vertebrae in the spine age and become dehydrated and “flattened,” DDD occurs.

The human spine is made up of a column of vertebrae with jelly-like, fluid-filled discs in between them. hese discs act as the shock absorbers during everyday activities and facilitate flexibility. Our spinal discs are made up of two parts: the outer, fibrous part known as the annulus or annular ring; and the inner part, which is a jelly-like nucleus that absorbs shocks to the spine.

When we’re born, these discs are comprised of 80% water. However, as we age, the water content naturally decreases and the discs generally deteriorate with the passing years of wear and tear. The areas of the spine most susceptible to disc degeneration are the cervical spine (neck) and the lumbar spine (lower back) because these areas undergo the most motion and stress from everyday living.

What the degeneration of these discs means is that your body goes from having Krispy Kreme donut-like cushions between your vertebrae to cushions more like Swedish pancakes, with little shock absorption and suppleness.

But the most important thing to remember is that this doesn’t mean you automatically “feel” it as your spine ages. You can live into your 80s without experiencing any pain related to the degeneration of your discs, because DDD is usually asymptomatic. That is, until a rear-end auto collision occurs.

This is all to state the obvious: a 30-year-old body and a 60-year-old body will respond to the trauma of a rear-end collision differently. The 30-year-old might get up and skip away, while the 60-year-old can barely turn his neck. While the insurance lawyers launch into their “Triple-D” defense, arguing that your neck pain is just the result of a pre-existing DDD, the truth is that a car accident can activate or trigger DDD symptoms that would likely never have developed in the absence of the trauma.


Diagnosis of DDD

Importantly, the trauma of the auto accident is the likely the cause of neck or back pain and disability, and not the pre-existing DDD in your spine which was asymptomatic before the trauma from the auto crash occurred. Therefore, the only certain way to learn of the condition of your discs is to be diagnosed by a medical professional.

A medical professional will take your medical history and perform a physical examination, checking for abnormalities, reflexes, and range of motion. But to diagnose DDD in the spine, a physician should order an MRI scan of the spinal area involved.


Long Term Treatment of DDD

In patients who have silent, underlying DDD, but then suffer spinal trauma in an auto accident causing pain, many long treatments are available. Long-term treatments in trauma patients who also have DDD target reducing the related neck or back pain through pain management, physical therapy, and lifestyle modification. Pain management might include heat or ice treatments and pain medications. Physical therapy might include stretching to improve flexibility, strengthening exercises to improve stability, and/or aerobic exercises to maintain healthy circulation. Some lifestyle modification might include avoiding nicotine and excess alcohol, using ergonomic furniture, and incorporating more movement into your daily routine.

The good news about car accident trauma patients who also have DDD is that, while the discs naturally degenerate, the pain triggered or exacerbated by spinal degeneration will actually feel better with time and proper treatment.

If you suffer from neck or low back pain due to someone’s negligence, getting an accurate diagnosis of your injuries is crucial. It is important to be informed and to utilize qualified medical professionals and experienced personal injury lawyers to help you fully recover. Call attorney Kurt D. Lloyd of Grazian & Volpe today at 773.838.8100, or fill out our online form for a free consultation.


The above article was written by Kurt D. Lloyd of Grazian & Volpe. Kurt Lloyd has been practicing personal injury law in the Chicagoland area for over 30 years and has helped his clients win more than $355 million in jury verdicts and settlements from insurance companies and corporations. Kurt helps his injured clients regain their lives after injury. The information provided comes from his extensive legal and medical research and years of experience trying injury cases in courtrooms throughout Illinois.

Rear-End Auto Crashes: Post-Traumatic Cervicogenic Headaches

In a rear-end auto collision, whiplash, or an acceleration flexion-extension neck injury, often occurs as a result of the forces acting on the body. While a properly set headrest can minimize incidences of whiplash, most drivers (approx. 90%) don’t have their headrest in the right position: the headrest is best set so that the top of the headrest is above the driver’s ears with less than four inches (4”) between the back of the head and the headrest. Failure to properly set one’s headrest can increase the risk of whiplash by up to six fold.

rear-end-car-accident

Whiplash usually leads to cervical strain or cervical sprain, but it may take days or even weeks until you begin to feel the effects of a rear-end collision. Moreover, headaches themselves are common secondary injuries in car crashes, especially rear-end crashes that involve whiplash. Yet a headache can have more than 300 differential diagnoses. A cervicogenic headache is but one of many chronic headaches, and, while it is a common one, it is often misdiagnosed.

The attorneys at the law firm of Grazian & Volpe have handled hundreds of auto crash cases and understand the medicine related to post-traumatic cervicogenic headaches. In this Blog, which is part of a series on spinal injuries caused by auto accidents, we shall explain what a cervicogenic headache is, how a cervicogenic headache is diagnosed, and what is done to treat a cervicogenic headache.

Post-Traumatic Cervicogenic Headaches

The neck, also called the cervical spine, consists of seven (7) vertebrae, labelled C1 through C7; their corresponding cervical nerves; and muscles and ligaments. Of those seven vertebrae, C1, also known as the atlas, connects the skull to the spine; C2, the axis, allows for rotation of the head; and C7 connects the neck to the upper back (the thoracic spine) at the shoulder level. When whiplash occurs, it is the cervical region of the spine that usually becomes injured.

A cervicogenic headache is a secondary headache, meaning it is a result of another injury, such as cervical osteoarthritis (spondylosis), a damaged disc, or whiplash resulting in the irritation or compression of a cervical nerve. At times, the symptoms associated with a cervicogenic headache may mimic that of a migraine. At first, the pain may be only intermittent; but then it often spreads to one side of the head (unilateral) and may become continuous. Additionally, cervicogenic headaches can be exacerbated by certain neck positions or neck movements. Cervical nerves C1, C2, or C3 is often where the underlying injury exists in cervicogenic headache cases because these nerves enable movement and sensation of the head and neck.

Signs and Symptoms of Cervicogenic Headaches

The International Headache Society (IHS) defines a cervicogenic headache as:

  1. Pain, referred from a source in the neck and perceived in one or more portions of the head and/or face, fulfilling paragraphs C and D below.
  2. Clinical, laboratory and/or imaging evidence of a disorder or lesion within the cervical spine or soft tissues of the neck known to be, or generally accepted as, a valid cause of headache.
  3. Evidence that the pain can be attributed to the neck disorder or lesion based on at least one of the following:
    1. demonstration of clinical signs that implicate a source of pain in the neck;
    2. abolition of a headache following diagnostic blockade of the cervical structure or its nerve supply using placebo- or other adequate controls.
  4. Pain resolves within three (3) months after successful treatment of the causative disorder or lesion¹

Other symptoms may include:

  • Stiffness in neck
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Blurred vision
  • Sensitivity to light or sound
  • Pain in one or both arms
  • Mobility difficulties

Diagnosis of Cervicogenic Headaches

Cervicogenic headaches can be diagnosed by x-ray, MRI, and CT scan. However, these tests are not necessarily conclusive. The only dispositive diagnostic test for cervicogenic headaches is the use of nerve block injections.

In a nerve block injection, an injection is made into the medial branches of the nerves that supply the cervical facet joints (learn more about facet joints and facet joint injuries in our previous blog, here). If the headache is a cervicogenic headache, then the injection should bring immediate relief to the patient’s pain, thus confirming the diagnosis.

Long Term Treatment of Cervicogenic Headaches

Treatment of cervicogenic headaches usually begins with over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, such as aspirin, then moving on to a prescription anti-inflammation and/or pain reliever if not effective. Other treatments include trigger point injections, facet joint blocks, nerve blocks, radiofrequency pulse ganglionotomy, and, rarely, spine surgery.

The good news, however, is that, according to one study, incidences of cervicogenic headaches decreased to almost none after one year from the date of onset and that a full recovery is expected in most cases.

If you have suffered from neck or headache pain due to someone’s negligence, getting an accurate diagnosis of your injuries is crucial. It is important to be informed and to utilize qualified medical professionals and experienced personal injury lawyers to help you fully recover. Call attorney Kurt D. Lloyd of Grazian & Volpe today at 773.838.8100, or fill out our online form for a free consultation.


The above article was written by Kurt D. Lloyd of Grazian & Volpe. Kurt Lloyd has been practicing personal injury law in the Chicagoland area for over 30 years and has helped his clients win more than $355 million in jury verdicts and settlements from insurance companies and corporations. Kurt helps his injured clients regain their lives after injury. The information provided comes from his extensive legal and medical research and years of experience trying injury cases in courtrooms throughout Illinois.

¹ Maja Stupar, BSc, DC and Peter SY Kim, BSc, DC, FCCS(C). Delayed-onset post-traumatic headache after a motor vehicle collision: a case report. The Journal of the Canadian Chiropractic Association. 2007 Jun; 51(2): 83–90.

 

Rear-End Auto Crashes: Traumatic Facet Joint Injuries

In a rear-end auto collision, spinal injuries of the neck and back often occur. A traumatic facet joint injury to the spine as a result of a rear-end auto crash is a common injury. Facet joint injuries are an “invisible” injury. A traumatic facet joint injury is usually not seen on X-rays and MRI imaging studies.

The attorneys at the law firm of Grazian & Volpe have handled hundreds of auto crash cases and understand the medicine related to a facet joint injury in the spine. In this Blog, which is part of a series on spinal injuries caused by auto accidents, we shall explain what a facet joint injury is, how a facet joint injury is diagnosed, and what is done to treat a facet joint injury.


Facet Joints

The facet joints help stabilize our spine, holding the spinal column in place and preventing excessive rotation (twisting) and flexion or extension (bending) of the spine.

Facet joints also prevent rotation of the vertebral column to a great degree. In addition, facet joints are necessary to prevent spondylolisthesis, which is forward slippage of one vertebra upon another. When this injury happens, the spinal canal gets compromised and there can be problems with pinching of the spinal cord.

Traumatic Injury to the Facet Joints

In an auto collision, the sudden impact can produce mechanical forces to the body that cause violent flexion-extension (“whiplash”) of the cervical spine or neck. See Image No. 1 below. This is also medically known as cervical acceleration-deceleration syndrome. This sudden force is transferred to the facet joints which attempt to maintain stability of the spinal vertebrae during whiplash by preventing the spine from excessively bending forward or backward. However, the facet joint can be abruptly injured by dislocation of the joint or from tearing or inflammation to the cartilage in the facet joint.

Image No. 1 Flexion-Extension X-Ray images

Image No. 1 Flexion-Extension X-Ray images

Signs and Symptoms of Facet Joint Injuries

  • Acute onset of neck, mid or low back or pain.
  • Palpable tenderness directly over the facet joints and reduced range of motion and muscle spasms.
  • In the neck, pain increases when extending backward and improves when flexing forward.
  • In the low back, pain can radiate or extend from the back to the buttocks; pain is present when standing but increases with sitting.
  • In the neck, the pain can radiate or extend from the neck onto the top of shoulders and upper shoulder blades.
  • The pain and restricted motion are recurrent and ongoing.

Diagnosis of Facet Joint Injuries

A CT-scan at the spinal level involved is the imaging study of choice for a clinically suspected facet joint injury. However, a CT-scan is only sensitive for diagnosis of damage to the facet joint fifty percent (50%) of the time.

The best diagnostic method for facet joint injuries is a medial branch block procedure. The medial branch nerves supply sensation and enervation to the facet joints. During a medial branch block procedure, an anesthetic is injected in the spine near the small medial nerves connected to a specific facet joint.¹

If the facet joint or joints targeted in the block procedure are causing the pain, then a patient will obtain relief from the medial branch nerve block; and if the facet joint is not causing the pain, then a patient will not obtain pain relief. This is what makes the procedure diagnostic for facet joint injuries. See Image No. 2 below.

Image No. 2 Medial Branch Block procedure. Needle injection of corticosteroid to nerve.

Image No. 2 Medial Branch Block procedure. Needle injection of corticosteroid to nerve.

Usually, a medial branch block is performed on two different dates, months apart, to confirm the diagnosis.


¹ Cohen SP, Moon JY, Brummett CM, White RL, Larkin TM. Medial Branch Blocks or Intra-Articular Injections as a Prognostic Tool Before Lumbar Facet Radiofrequency Denervation. Regional Anesthesia and Pain Medicine. 2015;40(4):376-383.

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26066382/


Long Term Treatment of Facet Joint Injuries

A procedure known as radiofrequency ablation (“RFA”) is used to treat a facet joint injury and obtain long term relief. An RFA is a minimally invasive procedure that reorganizes and modulates the nerve fibers carrying pain signals to the brain. In a radiofrequency ablation procedure, also called a rhizotomy, a probe is placed in the spine under x-ray guidance, and heat wave energy is delivered to the affected nerves. The waves “ablate,” or burn, the nerves that are causing the pain, thereby stopping pain signals from traveling along the nerves to the brain.

If you have suffered from back or neck pain due to someone’s negligence, getting an accurate diagnosis of your injuries is crucial. It is important to be informed and to utilize qualified medical professionals and experienced personal injury lawyers to help you fully recover. Call attorney Kurt D. Lloyd at Grazian & Volpe today at 773.838.8100, or fill out our online form for a free consultation.


The above article was written by Kurt D. Lloyd of Grazian & Volpe. Kurt Lloyd has been practicing personal injury law in the Chicagoland area for over 30 years and has helped his clients win more than $355 million in jury verdicts and settlements from insurance companies and corporations. Kurt helps his injured clients regain their lives after injury. The information provided comes from his extensive legal and medical research and years of experience trying injury cases in courtrooms throughout Illinois.

Spinal Injuries in Auto Crashes: Herniated Disc Injuries

In rear-end auto crashes, spinal injuries of the neck and back often occur. A herniated disc of the spine from a rear-end auto crash is a common injury. But a herniated disc injury is usually not diagnosed by your physician for many months, despite ongoing pain, numbness and tingling in your neck, back, arms or legs.

The attorneys at the law firm of Grazian & Volpe have handled hundreds of auto crash cases and understand the medicine related to a herniated disc injury. In this Blog—the first in a series on spinal injuries caused by auto accidents—we shall explain what a herniated disc injury is and how a herniated disc injury is eventually diagnosed.

A new, acute herniated disc in the spine is usually not seen on imaging studies immediately after a rear-end auto collision. In fact, the diagnostic features of a herniated disc which are found on a magnetic resonance imaging study (“MRI”) actually take time to develop in the spine before the MRI will be positive.

This phenomenon holds true even though you may have symptoms consistent with a herniated disc injury in the hospital Emergency Department immediately after an auto collision. Indeed, in the Emergency Department immediately after the car crash, the X-rays of the neck or back are usually negative, even though an MRI study of spine turns out positive for an acute herniated disc several months later.

Our attorneys understand the biomechanical processes that cause a herniated disc. In a rear-end car crash, the mechanical forces acting on your body can result in an abnormal flexion-extension of your spine. When this happens, one of the spinal discs between two of your vertebra can become herniated, that is, the impact forced “disc material beyond the limits of the intervertebral disc space.”* Our spinal discs are made up of two parts: the outer, fibrous part known as the annulus or annular ring; and the inner part, which is a jelly-like nucleus that absorbs shocks to the spine. Think of your discs as if they were jelly donuts which act as the shock absorbers of your spine.

When a herniated disc occurs, what happens is that the mechanical forces from the rear-end car impact tear the annulus (the outer wall of the donut) and some of the jelly-like nucleus pushes or extrudes into vertebral space. The resulting disc protrusion often irritates a nearby spinal nerve causing signs and symptoms of numbness, tingling, discomfort and pain.

MRI showing herniated disc

MRI showing herniated disc.

The MRI study of the cervical, thoracic or lumbar spine performed at the right time can be the gold standard for diagnosing an acute herniated disc ninety-two percent (92%) of the time. An MRI study involves radio waves, a magnetic field and a computer to create image of the spine and surrounding tissues. Our attorneys know how to read and review MRI images from a legal point of view. If your attorney does not understand how an MRI is read and interpreted, then you can lose your case.

Winning your case starts and stops with understanding the MRI results; what demonstrates an acute disc injury versus a chronic disc disease. A bright signal or “lucency” found on the T2 weighted images of disc on the MRI study proves relative acuteness from a rear-end auto collision. In older patients who have suffered from a rear-end auto injury, the presence of this bright signal can prove a new disc injury which is superimposed over a naturally aging spine. What the defense attorneys and defense experts like to do is call it degenerative disc disease of the spinal discs and blame that as the cause of numbness, tingling, discomfort and pain after a car crash, even though you were asymptomatic for a disc injury before the impact.

That’s why you need a good attorney.

At Grazian & Volpe, our years of experience spine injuries have given us the knowledge and skills to help our clients win their cases and recover the money they need to get on with their lives. After an auto accident, if you have low back pain, neck pain, or numbness, tingling in your arms, hands, legs or feet then you may a herniated disc or other disc injury. Call us at 773.838.8100, email us at Attorney@GrazianVolpe.com or fill out our online contact form for a free consultation. We can help you.


* Fardon, D., “Lumbar Disc Nomenclature: Version 2.0Recommendations of the Combined Task Forces of the North American Spine Society, the American Society of Spine Radiology, and the American Society of Neuroradiology,” Spine: November 15, 2014 – Volume 39 – Issue 24 – p E1448-E1465.


 

State Farm & Auto Accidents: Not Your Good Neighbor During the COVID-19 Pandemic?

For victims of auto accidents, the word is “No.” In Illinois, auto accident attorneys have learned that State Farm recently circulated an internal email to all of its claims adjustors instructing each of them to only offer up to fifty percent (50%) of the full value of an injured victim’s claim. Why? Since the Coronavirus pandemic has closed the Courts (except for emergencies), State Farm is thinking that attorneys for car accident victims are “strapped for cash” and will “settle short” because they cannot push their cases to trial. So, State Farm is gambling that your accident attorney will “settle short” of full value. Ah, don’t you love your neighbor?

At Grazian & Volpe, we’re ready, willing and able to weather the storm. Our last three (3) auto accident settlements against negligent drivers who were insured by State Farm Auto Insurance Company were for State Farm’s $100,000.00 policy limits—and that’s exactly the amount we won for our clients. Nothing short. Our attorneys work hard to make sure that our clients obtain full and fair compensation and nothing less. Unlike auto accident law firms, we have the financial resources to weather the storm. We’re here to help!

This has serious implications for victims of vehicle motor accidents. If you’ve just been in a traumatic car accident and were injured, you should not have to worry about whether your attorney is going to settle short for cash. You should have the confidence that your attorney is on your side and isn’t going to settle for anything less than what you are due.

Call us at 773.838.8100 or fill out our online form to schedule your free initial consultation.

Eliminating Car and Ped Traffic Accidents

What do you call an accident where a car strikes a pedestrian? Is it a car accident or a pedestrian accident. When urban planners and mayors set out to eliminate traffic deaths, who do they target?

First they examined the statistics and found that the number of traffic fatalities caused by car accidents attributable to speeding was 33,808 in 2013. Latest data available in the United States show pedestrian fatalities caused by a car accident at 4,473. The highest percentage of pedestrian fatalities occurred in New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Houston and LosAngeles.

90 percent of all pedestrians killed were in a single car accident and 19% are killed by hit and run drivers. 73% of car accidents causing the death of a pedestrian were in urban areas with 70% of fatalities occurring at non-intersections.

More than a third (37%) of pedestrian killed, and 1 in 8 (13%) of the drivers had blood alcohol concentrations of .08 g/dl or higher, the illegal limit in every State.

Car accidents resulting in the death of a pedestrian continue to increase by a solid 3% per year. So what were the conclusions reached?

The obvious: pedestrians and drivers do not obey laws and signals consistently and in addition, often used cell phones and ear phones while walking and driving!

Simply put, there is no one target in the quest to prevent car accidents and pedestrian fatalities. Numerous urban proposals and projects now involve shared responsibilities among drivers, cyclists, pedestrians, traffic enforcers and street designers, all of whom must change behaviors and attitudes.

Slowing traffic may be the most immediately effective measure for pedestrian and safety as well as in the prevention of all car accidents. When struck by a vehicle going 40 miles an hour, pedestrian has an 85 percent chance of dying and a higher chance of sustaining chance of sustaining a serious injury such as brain trauma. This compares with a 45 percent chance when struck at 30 miles per hour. Every 5 mph increment makes a huge difference in the pedestrian’s or driver’s ability to avoid the accident, serious injury or fatality.

Drivers tend to go as fast as conditions allow. There are many design strategies, called “traffic calming measures”, that force drivers to slow down. These measures are self-regulatory and may deter drivers off roads heavily used by pedestrians. For example, speed bumps, textured pavement and raised crosswalks remind a driver of his speed and cause him to slow.
Roundabouts are equally effective but often cause confusion for all parties.

I personally love the signs that flash the speeds of passing cars. I’ve never seen it fail to cause everyone to hit the brakes!

The Federal Highway Administration lists many measures that, in additions to slowing traffic, can render pedestrians and cyclist more visible and street crossings safer. The pedestrian bridge is great but not always feasible but an alternative on a wide street could be the installation of mid-crossing pedestrian islands.

The unavoidable take-away is that drivers, pedestrians and cyclists all share responsibility for safety. Peds and cycists can wear reflective gear, Drivers and cyclists can slow down, no one should drive, walk or cycle distracted, all must keep vigilant, follow traffic laws and signals-they serve to keep everyone in their own lane. Don’t depend on the other guy to follow the rules-you may have the right of way but it’s no fun to explain that to a police office from your hospital bed. It is always better to stay safe than to call Grazian and Volpe for assistance in obtaining compensation for your injuries. But if you can’t stay safe stay with Chicago’s most trusted and experienced personal injury lawyers for over 30 years.

Women Face More Injury in Car Accidents

When litigating car accident lawsuits, we have always found that women seem to consistently sustain more serious injuries than males. Predominantly, back and brain injuries. We began to wonder if this was just the experience of Grazian and Volpe or if it was a statistical fact.

We began to do some research and came upon a study done by the University of Virginia in October of 2011. Interested readers can access the full report at
ajph.aphapublications.org/.

Researchers reviewed information on 45,445 crash victims gathered by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration over 11 years. Compared with male drivers studied, women were 5 1/2 inches shorter and 35 pounds lighter; fewer were overweight; and more were driving passengers cars at the time of the crash(carpools, ferrying children and elderly parents and family members). After controlling for these factors and others, the study found that women were 47 percent more likely to suffer severe injuries, most notably brain and spinal injuries.

The study concludes that females are more susceptible to brain injury and spinal injury because of differences in neck strength and musculature. In addition, the positioning of head restraints and seating positions are not configured for the shorter female stature. The study posited that car safety devices have been designed with a male template and car manufacturers may need to consider designing safety features which can accommodate gender differences.

Dipan Bose, lead author of the study cautions female drivers “ensure that their safety systems perform optimally, including maintaining a good belt fit and correct seating posture.”

We have not seen any accommodations made by car manufacturers so it seems incumbent upon female drivers to take it upon themselves to provide for a more secure interior driving environment by assuring their necks and backs are secure and well-supported and their seat belts fit firmly.

Remember, it is always better to stay safe and avoid an accident and a lawyer. But if you can’t stay safe, stay with Grazian and Volpe, Chicago’s experienced car accident attorneys for over 30 years.

Cyclists: One Way Not to Get Hit

Grazian and Volpe have litigated thousands of car and bike accidents over the last 30 years. Some are unavoidable but we are constantly reminded how many accidents are totally preventable.

A growing area of our practice involves cyclists. Chicago strives to be a bicycle friendly city and we applaud the efforts. Cycling is healthy and good for the environment. However, the city has a long way to go before it is “bicycle friendly.” Drivers and cyclists are the main culprits in any bicycle/car accident. Most times it is the result of ignorance of proper protocol.

Bicycle accidents are often serious and sometimes fatal; not to the driver but always to the cyclist. Cyclists can scream and swear at bad drivers but cars are huge metal shells traveling at high speeds. Impact with a bicycle is of little consequence (physically) to the driver or passenger in a car. Our largest settlements are always for the cyclist because cyclists are unprotected and their injuries can be horrific. Many a cyclist have been grateful for a large settlement but all wish their accident never happened.

A proper fitting helmet, back and front lights and adherence to bicycle law is a given. After the basics a cyclist must be aware of the most vulnerable cycling situations.

The most common accident we have seen in the last year is what I refer to as the “Right Hook”. This involves a car passing you on your left and then making a right turn directly in front of you or right into you. Drivers think they can pass a slower bicycle and underestimate the speed at which a cyclist is traveling. This is a hard collision to avoid because the cyclist does not see the driver until it is too late. There is no escape maneuver available in this situation. There are three rules for avoiding the right hook:

1) Don’t ride on the sidewalk! You are invisible to a driver when you are on the sidewalk and enter the street to cross.
2) As you approach the intersection, take the middle position in the lane. If the street is narrow-definitely take the whole lane. Move to the right as you cross the intersection.
3) Add a mirror to your bike or helmet. Every cyclist knows that looking over your left shoulder causes the bike to serve dangerously to the left. A mirror allows you to see cars on your left without this risk.
4) Never pass a slow moving car on the right. Move to the left and make visual contact with the driver.
5) Watch for passengers that may be exiting on the right. A slowing car may indicate a driver who is about to unload a passenger.

ALWAYS RIDE AS IF YOU ARE INVISIBLE!

Can Technology Prevent Distracted Teen Driving?

Every human being is is not living under a rock is now aware of the dangers of distracted driving. IN 2011, 3,331 people were killed in crashes involving a distracted driver-many more than those killed by drunk drivers. In 2014 we are setting the course for close to the half million mark for injuries caused by distracted driving and an increase in wrongful deaths.

Despite the overwhelming data, most people surveyed admit it is difficult to avoid using a smartphone while driving and judging from our own road survey, it is difficult to find any driver in rush hour traffic whose face is not lit by the light of a smartphone.

So what technology hath wrought be solved by technology itself? A myriad of companies have developed products that prohibit or limit a driver’s ability to use a phone while driving, marketing their products to parent’s desperate to keep their teens safe on the road. But is the answer? Many feel that this is akin to keeping your child in a bubble at the expense of teaching them survival skills in the outside world. In other words, is technology ignoring the underlying problem?

Bryan Reimer, Ph.D.,research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s AgeLab and the associate director of the New England University Transportation Center at MIT has found that people prone to texting while driving fall into a larger category: high risk drivers. He has found that if you take away their phones they will find a substitute, whether it be changing radio stations, rummaging in their bags or checking their appearance in the mirror.

To address these drivers lies with feedback-oriented tools that examine overall driving performance, which includes cell phone use but other behaviors as well. He finds that products such as the DriveCam, an in car camera and related technology that alert drivers when they engage in hazardous behavior can provide parents with weekly data, including a driving score and visual clip of any risky behavior.

Grazian and Volpe applauds any efforts to increase road safety and prevent motor vehicle injuries and fatalities. This is a rich subject with a number of viewpoints as to solution. We will be exploring these in posts to come. Please stay tuned!