Personal Injury Law

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.


 

WORKPLACE INJURIES FROM COVID-19 IN ILLINOIS

Covid-19 work injuries The spread of COVID-19 across Illinois has resulted in many work-related infection claims. If you have been diagnosed with COVID-19 that was related to your workplace conditions, you can pursue a potentially compensable claim under the Illinois Occupational Diseases Act.

The employer’s defense to an alleged work-related COVID-19 claim likely will be that there was no greater risk of infection to the worker at the workplace than there is to the general public. But from news reports and health agency investigations, we know that certain workplace occupations and industries (for example, meat packers) do face exposure to a greater risk than the rest of the general public.

For the protection of workers, the Illinois Occupational Diseases Act provides:

“A disease shall be deemed to arise out of the employment if there is apparent to the rational mind, upon consideration of all the circumstances, a causal connection between the conditions under which the work is performed and the occupational disease. The disease need not to have been foreseen or expected but after its contraction it must be apparent to have had its origin or aggravation in a risk connected with the employment to have flowed from that source as a rational consequence.” 820 ILCS 310/1(d).

But the Illinois Occupational Disease statute does not require direct proof of causation.  Sperling v. Industrial Commission, 129 Ill.2d.416, 421, (1989). A worker’s medical expert opinion that an accident “could have” or “might have” caused an injury may be sufficient. Also, a chain of events suggesting a causal connection may suffice to prove causation. Consolidation Coal Co. v. Industrial Commission, 265 Ill.App.3d 830, 839 (1994).

Here at Grazian & Volpe, we’ve already begun receiving clients with workplace transmissions of COVID-19. If you believe you were infected with COVID-19 in your workplace, we know what to do and we’re here to help you. Contact us by phone at 773.838.8100 or fill out our online form to schedule your free initial consultation with an experienced attorney.

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.

Indoor vs Outdoor Slip and Fall Claims

Slip and Fall claims are based on negligence and premise liability theories. An owner of a premises has a duty to maintain the premises in a manner that is safe for visitors. If the owner fails to maintain the premises in a safe condition, he or she may be liable for injuries that are the result of the unsafe property conditions.

Indoor and outdoor slip and fall accidents often rest on different factors for liability. Knowledge of the law that applies to each accident is crucial to obtaining an excellent result in litigation. Lawyers who are not experienced in slip and fall accidents may often fail in obtaining good settlements because they pursue an incorrect theory of liability.

When a claim involves a slip and fall that occurred outdoors, the following factors may be considered:

1) Weather conditions: Rain, snow, ice, and freezing conditions may create situations where slip and falls may occur. Not all conditions are the stuff of lawsuits. Mother Nature is never liable but human intervention and Mother Nature may present another picture. For example, fresh snowfall creating slippery conditions is not actionable but commercial snow shoveling that creates a dangerous walking hazard does present liability. A natural accumulation of ice does not create premises liability but an accumulation created by a faulty gutter or leaky spigot does
2) Lighting conditions: a premises owner may be liable for a slip and fall caused by inadequate or broken lighting
3) Parking garages and parking lots: Oil and grease from cars may collect and create unsafe pedestrian conditions
4) Stairs: Improperly designed stairs which include rises and railings out of code can cause serious injury and are the duty of a premises owner to correct and maintain

In the case of outdoor claims, the owner is usually liable only for the property they own and control. Sidewalks and streets are normally maintained by the city or local municipal government. A premises owner may be liable if he shovels the sidewalk or has part of his property extending over the public access point, such as a tree or roof.

When a claim involves and indoor slip and fall in either a public or private space liability can be broader:

1) Floors, stairs, elevators and escalators must be well-maintained and kept free of debris. Warning signs should be posted where hazardous conditions exist. Mechanicals must be in working order and clear of protruding parts that may cause injuries.
2) Rushing employees who cause a slip and fall accident with a patron may also result in premises liability for the owner as well as a workers’ compensation suit if the employee is injured
3) Business establishments must be handicap accessible at all levels

Premises liability and slip and fall accidents can be a complicated area of law subject to many nuances. Injured victims should interview lawyers to assure that they have experience and success in litigating these cases. Grazian and Volpe has a proven, successful track record in slip and fall litigation. Visit us on Facebook and at our website for more informative articles designed to help the public protect its legal rights.

When is a Slip and Fall Not Worth Money?

There are two questions that are very important in analyzing the monetary value of personal injuries suffered in any type of accident. The questions are as follows:

1) Is there any liability for the accident meaning can fault be attributed to another party and can that party be sued? and;

2) Were injuries suffered and are those injuries of a serious enough nature to warrant the emotional and financial cost of pursuing compensation through the legal system?

The answer to the first question depends on whether their exists a person or entity that caused the accident or was responsible for preventing the circumstances causing the accident. For example, was the driver of a car texting on her phone which caused her to hit another driver or pedestrian or; did the landlord fail to provide adequate lighting or comply with the building code in such a manner has to cause a person to fall and sustain an injury? Liability can be a complex subject and will always require the scrutiny of an experienced personal injury lawyer to determine whether there exists sufficient liability to proceed with a personal injury lawsuit.

The answer to the second question as to whether there had been a injury directly attributable to the slip and fall or any accident depends on the seriousness of the injury and whether the person injured suffered the injury as a direct result of the accident or whether the injury existed before the accident. For example, a person who has been treated for back pain in the years before an accident will have a difficult time proving that their back pain was caused by a recent accident. Again, these issues demand a careful evaluation by a qualified and experienced personal injury attorney.

However, one thing is definitive. If the injury was not serious enough to demand medical attention it is not serious enough to warrant compensation. It is almost impossible for the most experienced personal injury attorney to prove you are entitled to compensation for personal injuries when there is no proof of a personal injury. This proof may only be provided by a medical professional. Grazian and Volpe has served injury victims in Chicago for over 30 years obtaining verdicts in the thousands and millions. It is always disheartening to explain to a person suffering from injury that we cannot take their case because they did not seek medical attention. Going to a doctor or hospital days or weeks later calls into question whether the injury was actually caused by the accident or slip and fall and/or seriousness enough to warrant the monetary and emotional drain required to pursue a personal injury lawsuit. We will always attempt to do what we can to make recovery possible for any client where it is justified but insurance companies are always on the prowl for reasons not to compensate an injured party. It is important that anyone suffering personal injury in any accident attempt to document the accident and accident site through any means available, i.e., witnesses, photos, and police reports. It is of utmost important that immediate medical attention is sought. Obviously that is easy in the case of broken bones and other serious injuries. However injury victims need to know that brain, neck and back injuries may not be obvious and it is better to error on the side of caution and obtain immediate medical attention. It may mean the difference between recovering and not recovering money damages for personal injuries suffered.

Boy’s tragic accident calls attention to elevator hazards

Many Chicago parents are not aware of how often children are injured in elevator accidents. Most people assume that if an elevator is available for public use in a commercial or public building, it must be safe. In fact, property owners and elevator manufacturers are required by law to ensure elevators are safe, but they often fail to do this.

A news report recently shined a spotlight on one particular type of elevator that is hazardous to children. Swing door elevators – those with an exterior door on the landing and an interior door attached to the elevator car – are particularly dangerous. These elevators are found mostly in older buildings, but a number of families are also now installing these for home use.

Swing-door elevators have been around for more than a century, and they have posed serious risks to children since those early days. This is because children can fit into the space between the two doors; when a child is in the gap and the outer door closes, the elevator is live and the child may not be able to get out without assistance.

While it is not clear exactly how many children have been injured in such accidents, it was recently reported that 34 children were maimed or killed in swing-door accidents in a 10-year period in southern New York and New Jersey alone.

In a recent incident, a boy was seriously injured in an elevator accident in his own home. The swing-door elevator had been installed in the home to accommodate the boy’s elderly grandmother. On Christmas Eve 2010, the 3-year-old managed to open the outer elevator door, and it closed behind him. The boy was trapped between the outer and inner doors when his mother happened to call the elevator. The boy was dragged and pushed by the elevator car, and although he survived, he suffered brain damage and quadriplegia.

His parents were not aware of the hazards associated with swing-door elevators when they purchased theirs. In the aftermath of this tragedy, they have sued the manufacturer of the elevator and are calling for changes in the elevator industry to prevent additional accidents.

Companies should be held accountable to the fullest extent when their products injure children.

Source: The Modesto Bee, “‘Swing-door’ elevators blamed for child injuries,” Shawn Hubler, Dec. 18, 2013