Concussions and Brain Injuries in Car Wrecks, Falls and Sports Injuries

Jan 15, 2018 | Ben Boscolo

Why do I need a trial lawyer if I have suffered a concussion, head injury or traumatic brain injury in a car wreck, fall or sports injury?

The brain is the world’s greatest computer and the least understood part of our anatomy. Our brain has three parts: the rational, the emotional, and, buried deep beneath those, the instinctive. Injuries to the brain, from catastrophic to minor, change the way we think, feel and act. Many of these changes go unnoticed by the person who suffers the brain injury. In fact, many people who suffer brain injuries may not even consider an injury to the brain as a reason for changes in the way they feel or act. This is because we believe that if we do not get hit in the head or lose consciousness, we cannot have hurt our brains. Brain injuries, such as concussions, in car wrecks and falls are underreported, underdiagnosed and undertreated. Many times, medical professionals tell us that the changes in the way we are feeling or acting are the result of emotional or psychological problems as opposed to an injury to our brains.

Since concussions and brain injuries are so difficult to understand, it is extremely important to hire a trial lawyer who understands the brain and concussions and who has experience representing people who have suffered traumatic brain injuries. Car wrecks, falls and sports injuries are three very common causes of head injuries.

The Brain, Skull and Their Functions

Understanding the reason why you need a trial lawyer to handle a personal injury case involving a head injury begins with a basic understanding of the brain and the skull. The brain is a very fatty organ. Seventy-five percent (75%) of the brain is made of water. It is the consistency of Jello. The brain floats in cerebrospinal fluid. The fluid is contained by a membrane and sits within the skull. Quite simply, the skull is the armor for the brain.

Your lawyer must also understand what the different parts of the brain do. The front part of the brain, comprised of the frontal and temporal lobes, generally controls thinking, voluntary movement, hearing and feeling. The right side of the brain controls the left side of the body, and the left side of the brain controls the right side of the body. The back of the brain, or the cerebellum, controls coordination and balance.

As the image below shows, the brain is divided into four parts, or lobes: the frontal, the temporal, the parietal and the occipital.

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Since the causes and frequency of concussions are misunderstood by most people, your lawyer must understand concussions and the wide range of symptoms they produce. The average person believes that a concussion happens when someone is hit in the head or loses consciousness. This is not correct. According to Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary, a concussion is “a jarring injury of the brain resulting in disturbance of brain function sometimes marked by permanent damage.” In order to suffer a concussion, one does not need to be struck in the head or lose consciousness. A concussion is simply an injury to your brain.

What are the symptoms of a traumatic brain injury?

Like all other injuries, brain injuries can be mild, moderate or severe. Generally speaking, a moderate brain injury occurs from a loss of consciousness from 20 minutes to 6 hours, and a severe brain injury occurs from a loss of consciousness for more than 6 hours. The focus of this blog is mild traumatic brain injury, which occurs when there is a brain injury with either no loss of consciousness or a loss of consciousness for less than 20 minutes. One of the principal ways to identify a mild traumatic brain injury is based on the symptoms that follow car wrecks, falls or sports injuries. The symptoms of a mild traumatic brain injury include fatigue, headaches, visual disturbances, memory loss, poor attention or concentration, sleep disturbances, dizziness or loss of balance, irritability, emotional disturbances, feelings of depression, seizures, nausea, loss of smell, sensitivity to light and sounds, mood changes, getting lost or confused and/or slowness in thinking.

How do brain injuries happen?

The most common way to suffer a traumatic brain injury is from a direct blow to the head. Head injuries frequently occur in car wrecks when a person’s head hits the windshield or the side of the car. Head injuries also frequently occur when someone trips and falls and hits the back of their head. Head injuries are especially common in sports with head-to-head contact between players.

In each of these types of injuries, the brain strikes the inside of the skull. The head and the brain are moving together, either forward or backward. When the car crash victim’s head hits the windshield, it stops. Unfortunately, their brain, which is floating in fluid, keeps moving. The only thing that stops the brain from moving is the skull. Similarly, when the fall victim or athlete falls and hits the back of their head, the brain slams into the inside of the back of the skull. The same thing happens when someone hits the right or left side of their head. The only thing that stops the brain from moving to the right or the left is when it hits the inside of the skull. Brain damage can occur when the brain slams into the side of the skull. The damage can range from a bruise to bleeding. In addition, axons that are long threadlike nerve tissues that transmit impulses from one cell to another cell can be sheared or torn during the injury. Significant bleeding or axonal shearing can be seen on MRI.

The more difficult to recognize traumatic brain injuries occur when there is not direct injury to the head or loss of consciousness. In any car wreck, fall or sports injury where there is a whiplash type injury, a concussion or traumatic brain injury frequently occurs. The mechanism of injury is exactly the same. The head is snapped forward and the brain moves with it. When nature stops our head from moving forward, the brain keeps moving until it slams into the inside of the skull. Then as the head is snapped in the opposite direction, the brain begins to travel in the opposite direction. When nature stops our head from moving in the opposite direction, the brain keeps moving until it slams into the inside of the skull. Each time the brain smashes into the skull, it is damaged. In cases like this, the bruising or tearing of the axons, or nerve tissues, cannot be seen on an MRI. The resulting brain injury is just as real and can be permanent.

What are some challenges for sufferers of a mild traumatic brain injury?

The brain controls all physical and emotional activity. As a result, the symptoms of a traumatic brain injury overlap the symptoms of other injuries or conditions. When someone is in a car wreck, fall or sports injury, neck problems are a frequent result. Neck injuries frequently cause head pain and headaches. More importantly, severe pain in the neck interferes with concentration and sleep and can cause irritability or depression. These overlapping symptoms frequently prevent the injured person from recognizing that they have suffered a concussion. The overlapping symptoms frequently mask the traumatic brain injury so that medical professionals may not focus on it. Doctors tend to focus on the physical injury first, believing that when the physical injury heals, the symptoms will go away. This leads to a delay in the diagnosis and treatment of a traumatic brain injury.

When someone suffers from a history of anxiety, depression or any other emotional issues, the symptoms of those diseases can include fatigue, headaches, poor attention or concentration, sleep disturbances, irritability and emotional disturbances, feelings of depression, mood changes, confusion and slowness in thinking. When a person with a history of emotional or psychological issues is hurt in a car wreck, fall or sports injury and experiences these symptoms, they understandably believe that this is related to their pre-existing emotional or psychological problems. Medical professionals may also frequently confuse the symptoms of traumatic brain injury with a recurrence of the injured person’s emotional or psychological condition.

Two major problems are caused by the fact that the problems an injured person experiences as a result of a concussion or mild traumatic brain injury mimic the problems caused by neck injuries or emotional problems. First, the confusion about the cause of the problems often results in a delay in diagnosis. The delay in diagnosis causes a delay in treatment. The delay in treatment makes it less likely that the traumatic brain injury will get better. Second, and more significantly, the delay in treatment makes it far less likely that the treating doctor will quickly relate the symptoms to the car wreck, fall or sports injury.

Do you need a trial lawyer if you were hurt in car wreck, fall or sports injury?

Anyone who suffers a traumatic brain injury in a car wreck, fall or sports injury should consider contacting an experienced trial lawyer. The attorney you choose must have experience in handling cases like these. Experience will teach your lawyer:

  1. How to recognize the symptoms of concussion or traumatic brain injury.
  2. How to help you get the medical care and treatment you need in order to recover.

More importantly, you should make sure the lawyer you hire has courtroom experience in representing people with concussions or traumatic brain injury for the following reasons:

  • First, your lawyer should be able to explain, in plain English, what a concussion is. Your lawyer should be able to explain to both you and a judge or jury how your brain injury resulted from the car wreck, fall or sports injury.
  • Second, your lawyer’s experience will provide them with essential knowledge of how insurance companies and their lawyers will defend your case. Insurance companies and their lawyers have a game plan for defending cases in which a person has a concussion or traumatic brain injury as a result of a car wreck, fall or sports injury.
  • Third, most mild traumatic brain injuries cannot be shown with any kind of test. As a result, doctors are forced to rely on their patients’ complaints in order to diagnose a traumatic brain injury. Insurance companies and their lawyers know that most people in American society view those who make claims for personal injuries as a result of a car wreck, fall or sports injury skeptically. This skepticism predisposes judges or juries who are asked to decide whether someone has a traumatic brain injury to think that the injured person is faking the symptoms in order to get money. Further, the skepticism predisposes judges or juries who believe that a person has a brain injury to think that the problem is not the result of the car wreck, fall or sports injury.
  • Fourth, insurance companies and their lawyers also know that the people in our communities believe that it’s bad to award money to people who are hurt in a car wreck, fall or sports injury. The average person believes that awarding money for personal injuries, including concussions or traumatic brain injuries, caused by a car crash will cause our insurance payments to go up. The average person believes that awarding money for personal injuries, including concussions or traumatic brain injuries, caused by slipping and falling will drive businesses out of our state.
  • Fifth, insurance companies and their lawyers know that it is hard for a person with a traumatic brain injury to fight them in Court. Insurance companies and their lawyers use the tactic of deny, defend, delay to discourage injured people to stand up for their rights. Insurance companies and their lawyers know it is expensive for a person with a traumatic brain injury to fight them in court.
  • Finally, insurance companies and their lawyers know that people will not award money to people with traumatic brain injury if they think the person is a liar, faker or fraud. So, insurance companies and their lawyers use the medical records of the person with a traumatic brain injury to make it look like the person is lying. Insurance companies and their lawyers dig into the past of a person with a traumatic brain injury to try to show they are lying. Insurance companies and their lawyer will even hire private investigators to spy on a person with a traumatic brain injury to try to show they are lying. Insurance companies and their lawyers know that if they make a person with a traumatic brain injury seem like they are lying, they will not get compensated–and the insurance company gets to increase their profits.

An experienced trial lawyer will know how to fight insurance companies and their lawyers by knowing how to prove traumatic brain injuries are real with witnesses, documents, pictures and video. Experienced trial lawyers know how to overcome the false belief that awarding money to someone who suffers a traumatic brain injury from a car wreck, fall or sports injury is bad. Your trial lawyer should actually be able to show that making the person who caused the traumatic brain injury pay for what they caused is good for our community. An experienced trial lawyer will have the courage to fight the insurance company in court and the compassion to help the person with the traumatic brain injury deal with the deny, defend, delay strategy. Finally, an experienced trial lawyer will know how use the tactic of trying to turn the person with a traumatic brain injury into a liar against the insurance company.

Concussions and traumatic brain injuries are serious, life-changing injuries. They are hard to understand and treat. It is very hard to prove that a person has a traumatic brain injury, but it’s not impossible. Insurance companies and their lawyers know how to get their clients off the hook when a traumatic brain injury is caused by a car wreck, fall or sports injury. That’s why it is important for anyone suffering from a concussion or traumatic brain injury from a car crash, fall, or sports injury to talk with an experienced trial lawyer.


What is an underdog?

Jan 09, 2018 | Barry Chasen

To me, the underdog is characterized by a lifelong fight. Things seem bleak, but the underdog fights to overcome. He fights and he struggles. He keeps his head down and works. Every once in a while, pop culture reminds us of how great the underdog story is: a JFK is elected or an Obama inspires us all. The Orioles beat the Yankees. But then, almost always on cue, the underdog is forced to endure more struggle. The underdog sees his fight stopped and his dream deterred.

However, what makes the underdog special is how he responds to struggle. The underdog responds to insurmountable odds by gritting his teeth and pushing forward. The underdog does not stop trying. I am intimately familiar with the underdog’s story, and it’s why I do what I do. Why? Because I am one.

I started ChasenBoscolo on March 5, 1986, to be a law firm for the underdog, by the underdog. Back then, it was just Law Offices of Barry M. Chasen, and it was just my secretary and me. My oldest son had just been born. He was two months old when I started the firm. My friends told me the timing seemed a little off, but when you’re driven by a passion and you’ve got the underdog’s fight, timing doesn’t matter.

Five years before going out on my own, when I got my first job as a lawyer, it was the first time that I had ever set foot in a law firm. I was 33 years old. I was the 19th lawyer in a firm that represented injured workers in workers’ compensation claims and plaintiffs in personal injury cases in Maryland, DC and Virginia. However, over the five years that I worked for another firm, I learned a sad truth: lawyers in the industry made decisions and gave counsel to their clients that were in the firm’s best interest rather than the client’s. The goal was to increase the fee that the firm made. That felt wrong to me. Frankly, that is wrong.

So I left and started my own firm, the firm that today is called ChasenBoscolo. I did it, no matter how odd the timing, because I was sure that I could represent my clients and do a better job than the old firm. Of the cases that I wanted to take with me, 91% of the clients elected to stay with me. They wanted me to fight for them. I was committed to working in their best interest. I was committed to a philosophy then that still guides our firm today: if you take care of the clients, the money will take care of itself.

But all of this started long before I started fighting independently for my clients. Much earlier than my career as a lawyer, I had to fight for myself. Because we don’t have all day, and because in the interest of your time, I’ve edited my first draft of this post down from nearly 5,000 words. I’ll simply share three short segments of my own “underdogging” so that you can see why the fight we take on at ChasenBoscolo really hits home for me.


1.

I’m ten years old. I’m poor—well, my family is poor. My father, a taxi driver with an eighth-grade education, is working through the night. Last week he was robbed at gunpoint, so we don’t have any money. This week, we’ll be lucky if he brings home a hundred dollars. Me and a classmate both rip our jeans sliding into base at recess. He returns to school the next day with a new pair. I return with a patch on my ass. I realize I’m poor when my friends go to summer camp, to swimming pools and to amusement parks. I don’t do any of that. I’m lucky if my father drives us to the ocean for a day trip in his cab. Despite our poverty, my parents constantly reinforce that even though we have no money, I will get a college education. They ensure me that we will figure it out. At ten, that doesn’t mean much to me, but I feel supported.

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As I get older, it means the world. I’m confident in myself because of their support. Then my father dies from a fatal heart attack on the street. He’s 51 years old. Things get worse. My mother cannot not maintain the mortgage payments on our house. It’s sold at auction and then rented back to us. Our phone service is shut off; our lights don’t turn on. I don’t know where our next meal is coming from.

I’m an underdog though. I’m a fighter. I don’t give up. Although I want to go to college, I work instead. I’m hired by the Social Security Administration as a GS-2 file clerk making $3,680 a year. I get promoted multiple times over a few years. I end up being promoted to the level of a computer programmer. I even start taking college courses at night and finish enough credits to be about a quarter of the way done. The light inside me will not flicker out.


2.

I’m drafted into the army. The 1960s are a time of unrest. College students, African-Americans and others protest against the actions of our government. We are engaged in an unpopular war and the rights of African-Americans are being infringed from equal accommodations to voting rights to economic equality. The anti-war protests become increasingly violent with flag burnings, bombings, rock throwing. Groups like the Weather Underground, Students for a Democratic Society, The Black Panthers, The Symbionese Liberation Army and The Youth International Party are all active in the ‘60s. In the Civil Rights Movement, there is a mix of violent and non-violent protests. They are fighting for justice, equality and opposing a war that is remote to the interests of the United States and is taking place half a world away.

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I am anti-war. I don’t consider moving to Canada, but I don’t understand what we’re doing in Vietnam. I keep my head down and I push myself during our basic training. I have no other choice but to fight, to do my best. I’m offered an opportunity to train to become an officer, and I take it. I understand that I may be safer as an officer than as an artillery man. Things are looking up. But of course, as always, the underdog is faced with challenges no matter how good things seem to get.

I train to be an officer, and this is how it goes: after a hard day of training, our commanders show up at our barracks and tell us to put on our full-pack uniforms. They then take us for a long run which culminates with us crawling through a muddy stream. We’re exhausted and filthy when we get back to our barracks after 11:00 p.m. The training commanders then tell us that we have an inspection at 5:00 a.m. After we’re dismissed and go inside, we discover that our bunks have been trashed and our bookcases overturned. Our foot lockers and lockers have been turned upside down. We have six hours to get everything in order, and then we’ll do it all again the next day. That seems bad to me until I get to Vietnam.

I land in Vietnam and spend a few months doing basic intelligence reporting, but then everything changes. I’m walking back to my office with my commanding officer after a meeting and suddenly a succession of rocket blasts come closer and closer. The blasts do not stop. We start to run. My ears are ringing now but it’s my heartbeat that I hear. Me and my commanding officer slide into a bunker, a hollowed-out mound of wet sand bags. We look at each other but neither of us say a thing. Our faces say enough: fear. I hear my heart beat. I hear the blasts, still louder. And then finally, just before I’m sure the next one will land on our bunker, they stop. I sit there for a long time and consider how lucky I am. Then I think about how unlucky I am. Then again—lucky.

Sometimes, for some people, the blasts don’t stop before the bunker. For me they do, and I get to come home after another year. Within 30 minutes of landing at Travis Air Force Base in the Bay area, I am called a “baby killer” by protesters outside the gates. I cannot wear my uniform off base without being subjected to a constant barrage of verbal abuse. Whenever I appear in public in uniform, I am always insulted and attacked.


3.

It’s 2018 and I’ve survived Vietnam. I’ve finished night school at the University of Maryland University College. I’ve finished law school at night too: the University of Baltimore. I’m a lawyer. I’ve found my calling, and I’ve made a career out of it. I’ve realized that my old employers had the wrong attitude. They didn’t know what it meant to be an underdog. When I leave that firm, I take almost all of my clients with me. Since then, I’ve helped thousands of other clients. I’ve won countless cases. I’m proud of myself. I’ve grown my firm.

I’ve married the love of my life, and I have three wonderful sons who are grown themselves. They didn’t have to go to night school. I’ve provided for them in a way that they’re not the same underdog I was. But they still are underdogs in some sense. We all are in different ways.

It’s 2018, and the firm is still growing. We’re successful; we have commercials. We’re hiring lawyers and winning cases. We’re delivering justice to underdogs. I’m checking every box by the measure of conventional success. But things are not easy. We haven’t cracked a code where winning cases is easy. Let me explain why: being an underdog means that you’re fighting a beast that’s bigger than you.

It’s 2018, and judges have been “tort reformed.” They default to side on the behalf of the insurance companies—the behemoth conglomerates making more than a billion dollars a year. Case decision makers—commissioners—suffer from “compassion fatigue.” The law is not applied fairly and impartially and the law is rarely construed in favor of the injured worker. Some of this is the result of politics. Some of it has occurred because of tort reform propaganda and lies.

It’s 2018, and the deck is still stacked against the underdog. On one side, you have the little guy represented by a firm not much larger than a football team. On the other side, you have big corporations or insurance companies with virtually unlimited resources. They will always present the best evidence that money can buy. These companies on the other side make more than $250 million per quarter. In three months, they make more money to use at their disposal than we can ever dream of.


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It’s 2018, and I continue to fight. I continue to fight because it’s what I know how to do. I know how to push on, hungry and in the dark: my father has died. I know how to push on, heartbeat in my throat: the blasts get closer and closer and my commanding officer and I believe that we’re already dead. And I know how to push on when I walk into the courtroom and I see both representatives of a massive insurance company who have lobbied politicians in D.C. to pass legislation that helps them win cases. I see my client who, just like me, is an underdog.

Just like me—just like all of us—my clients are pushing forward to make a better life for themselves and their families. Then they are injured in an act of negligence. When that happens, they deserve representation. They deserve someone who will show up ready to fight, someone who won’t back down from a company with deep pockets who threatens to stand in the way of justice—someone who’s seen stuff a lot tougher than the representation and evidence that money can buy.