Thursday, May 22, 2014

Whiplash from Car Accidents

“Whiplash” is a common diagnosis following a rear end car crash. The term can refer to several different soft tissue injuries to the neck including muscle strain, muscle sprain, cervical strain, cervical sprain, hyperextension of the neck and hyperflexion of the neck.  These injuries are the result of inertia of the person in the car and the sudden movement of the car. The impact of the car accident forces the body forward while the head stays in place, causing the neck to bend in an extreme whip-like snap.

If  you have suffered a whiplash injury, it may get better in a week or so or it may get worse. If it does not improve after a few days, it is important to seek medical attention and, if appropriate, obtain a prescription for a muscle relaxant or pain reliever.  If the muscles stay stiff for too long without improvement it can be much harder to heal and the whiplash injury can become chronic.

Most often, whiplash symptoms will resolve in a couple of weeks.  However, in some instances where the initial diagnosis is  whiplash, but the symptoms do not resolve, your doctor may order additional diagnostic testing including an MRI or CT Scan to diagnose or rule out a more serious injury such as a disc bulge or disc herniation.  These spinal injuries often require physical therapy  or more invasive medical treatment. Waiting too long to bring such an injury to the attention of a doctor can result in a worsening of the condition which can become debilitating without intervention.

If you are injured for more than a week or two and are considering a personal injury claim as a result of the car accident, it also becomes important to seek care for your injury to establish for the insurance company that you were injured as a result of the car accident. This prevents the insurance company from acting as though no one was injured or the injuries were very minor. Establishing a record of the injury makes it more likely that you will obtain compensation for the injury and any subsequent medical bills, pain, suffering and inconvenience.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Workers Compensation Liens in Virginia Personal Injury Cases

Workers Compensation Liens in Virginia Personal Injury Cases

Often a worker on the job gets injured by someone who is not a co-employee. This can happen in car accidents, on construction sites, at delivery locations, and in slip and fall cases where the worker is injured at a building not owned by the employer. In such cases, the workers compensation claim usually begins right away and then, when medical treatment is finished or leveled off, the personal injury case is settled or taken to trial. 

At this point it must be remembered that the workers compensation insurance company is allowed to recover most of the money  it paid to the injured worker or the health care providers from the proceeds of the personal injury case. In fact, the workers compensation insurance company has the right to file its own "personal injury" lawsuit to get its money back. Virginia Code Sections 65.2-309,65.2-309.165.2-311, and 65.2-313 are the laws dealing with these liens. 

Most of the time however, the workers compensation insurance carrier will let the injured worker's personal injury lawyer handle the case. If the injured worker has not been informed by the lawyer of this legal right the the workers compensation insurance company has to a large portion of the settlement from the accident case, it can be a painful surprise. There are various tactics and techniques a lawyer who is experienced in both workers compensation and personal injury cases can use to reduce the amount the injured worker  pays back, particularly if the same lawyer is handling both cases.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Swimming Accidents and Drowning Deaths

Swimming Safety

Now that summer is approaching, many of us and our children will spend quality time in the water. Whether it is swimming pools, lakes or the ocean, we all love swimming and playing in the water. In order to be safe it is important to swim with someone or with someone watching. Cramps, passing out, panic, and unknown medical conditions can all cause the drowning of otherwise healthy swimmers. The Red Cross provides good safety advice.

Most people are surprised when they learn that very frequently someone drowns without a lot of noise and splashing. Splashing is actually what someone does when they are staying afloat. What actually often happens is the drowning person panics and tries to conserve air while going under the water without a struggle or a sound. This is why it is critical to keep an eye on whomever is in the water. 

Drownings often occur with many people around as a result of a lack of attention. Most lifeguards are dedicated and attentive but even the best lifeguard can become distracted. This is especially the case with teenage lifeguards if their supervisors have not trained them well and do not supervise them properly. Many a child has drowned because parents assume the lifeguard is paying attention.

Just in the past couple years our firm has represented the families of two drowning victims. Both drowned with people around. One drowned at a hotel pool with a lifeguard on duty and one drowned in a public lake. Obviously, no one saw or heard anything until it was too late. In the lake drowning the victim could not swim and there was a sudden, unmarked drop-off in the "shallow" area and he just slipped under. In the case of the pool there was host of problems to be on the lookout for. The water was dirty and too hot; the air was too hot; the lifeguard was poorly trained and poorly supervised; and, most importantly, was distracted by other swimmers and pool deck duties.

Defective Products

Defective Products

Consumers have the right to expect that the products they purchase are safe or that they will be warned of any possible safety issues.  Even with the best intentions, companies inevitably put unsafe products on the market.  To protect themselves from liability they purchase product liability insurance and employ highly skilled lawyers.  These cases can be very complex but an experienced lawyer can assist you if you or a loved one has been injured.

One of the interesting aspects of products liability law in Virginia is that the negligence of the user is not fatal to the claim. Foreseeable misuse is something the manufacturer of the product has to take into account before placing the product in the marketplace.  As a result, for what the law calls a "breach of warranty", the manufacturer can be liable even if the consumer does not use the product exactly as it was intended.

Defective products can appear in all areas of life, from the tires on the car to the kids' toys.  Design defects, manufacturing defects, failure to warn of safety concerns, and breach of warranties are all types of products liability cases.  If you are injured by a defective product, you may be able to recover for your injuries from the manufacturer, the distributor, the supplier, or the retailer.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Cycling Accidents


Cycling accidents can be devastating to the cyclist. Fatalities and brain injuries are common because of the severe trauma a cyclist can suffer when hit by car or thrown to the ground at 30-40 miles an hour. Automobile drivers rarely understand that bikers have the exact same rights on the road as a car does. Car drivers also do not pay enough attention to cyclists sharing the road with them and often cause crashes because of a failure to look for cyclists.

In cases involving cyclists it is advantageous to have a lawyer who is an experienced bike rider. The perspective of a cyclist/lawyer can help by analyzing the accident from the perspective of a cyclist who is not only familiar with the rules of the road but also familiar with how drivers behave and react towards cyclists.

Matthew O'Herron is an experienced and avid cyclist. During law school he cycled around Ireland for a month. He is a member of the Blue Ridge Bicycle Club and follows the racing in Europe during the spring and summer. For more information visit our website.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Texting and Driving Accidents

What is just as dangerous as driving drunk? Driving while typing or watching a video on your cell phone. The fact that cell phones are so popular and such a part of the social fabric of our society means that everyone has them and uses them for multiple purposes. A common tragedy resulting from this is the significant increase in teenagers and young adults getting in accidents because of texting or surfing the web while driving. The statistics involving cell phone usage in a car and the results of such use are alarming.

Teens especially think that they are still paying attention and being safe if they just take a quick look at the phone or type a few letters and look back at the road. The reality is that such a distraction can take up to four or five seconds and a car travels a long way in that amount of time. Another factor causing wrecks is that, even when a driver looks back to the road, their focus doesn't fully return before they look back at the phone. As a result, there is no anticipation of what might go wrong, only a recognition that the car directly in front of them isn't braking.

Obviously, texting or surfing the web while driving is negligent. There are campaigns and legal cases trying to make accidents caused by such negligence subject to punitive damages. This should worry parents and those responsible for insurance coverage. The minimum legal insurance coverage in Virginia is $25,000.00, a limit set decades ago. The cap on punitive damages is $350,000.00. (Virginia Code Section 8.01-38.1). So, even a relatively small accident could result in liability far beyond available insurance.

However, it is better not to need insurance and to avoid injuring someone altogether. There are technologies available that prevent hands on usage of cell phones while driving. Prevention is what will keep drivers safe and protect them from both liability and, more importantly, the guilt of having seriously injured someone.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Automobile Accident Medical Insurance

Medical expense coverage is an option on car insurance policies. The Virginia law which describes it is Code Section 38.2-2201. It pays for medical treatment for accident related injuries regardless of fault. It is a separate coverage from liability and uninsured motorist coverage. An automobile insurer can offer different coverage amounts, usually between $2,000.00 and $10,000.00. Often, if a specific request is made, higher coverage amounts are available. The coverage amount is "stacked" based upon the number of cars on the policy. For example, if there is $5,000.00 in coverage and three cars on the policy, then there is actually $15,000.00 in benefits available.

If an insured is injured in a car accident, this coverage can be very important if the other driver has limited insurance or if the insured is partly at fault for the accident. Medical expense insurance will pay the insured directly for medical expenses related to the accident. It applies to medical bills for treatment within three years of the accident. The payments are made when the medical bills are submitted to the insurance company. This means the injured person does not have to wait until the end of a personal injury case to receive payment.

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Medical expense coverage is an option on car insurance policies. The Virginia law which describes it is Code Section 38.2-2201.