Answers to Your Most Common Questions About Personal Injury and Other Legal Issues
It’s natural to have many questions when facing any type of legal case, especially those related to accidents and personal injury. It can be difficult to know where to find the relevant, reliable answers to those questions. The lawyers at The Poole Law Group offer their thoughts on many of the most common questions to help you learn more about your rights and ensure that you achieve the best legal result possible.
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I think I have a concussion from my motor vehicle accident. What do I need to know?
The above Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) video on the mechanics of a concussion shows concussions are now taken far more seriously than they once were. In fact, concussions are now classified as “traumatic brain injuries” or TBIs by the major medical associations. Research and experience from sports (e.g., football, soccer, ice hockey, etc.) and from military combat actions now show that TBIs and concussions can really affect how injured people feel and function, and the effects can be long-term. TBIs range from mild (e.g., concussions) to severe (e.g., extended memory loss) in degree.
Blurred vision, headaches, ringing in the ears, problems with balance, memory loss, queasiness in the stomach, changes in mood (e.g., depression, anxiety), and changes in sleep patterns are some of the symptoms of a traumatic brain injury or concussion. If you develop any of these symptoms after a motor vehicle accident or any incident involving a bump, blow, or jolt to the head that disrupts the normal function of the brain1 , it is critical that you report this to your doctor or medical care provider right away. If you or your child develop any of the symptoms from the CDC's list of danger signs, head to the ER immediately.
Also, ask someone who has not been injured (e.g., family member, friend, or coworker) to observe you because they may be better able to determine whether you are showing signs of a TBI.
NOTE: It is not unusual for some of our clients to rule out a concussion or TBI simply because they didn’t get diagnosed with one at the emergency room. Studies show that TBIs and concussions are misdiagnosed as much as 60% of the time at the ER. Generally, this is because care providers at the ER are typically focused on addressing immediate traumas – broken bones, bleeding, shock, etc. – and also because it is not unusual for many of the symptoms of a TBI to become apparent in the days after the crash.
One of the reasons that it is important to get this diagnosis correct is that generally healthcare providers will tell people with concussions or TBIs to greatly curtail their activity. People with such injuries need to be extremely careful as to what type of physical activity they engage in (e.g., operating motor vehicles or heavy equipment, climbing ladders, etc.). They also have to be careful about how much visual and mental activity they ask their brain to engage in. A concussion or TBI is an injury to the brain. The brain needs less stimulation and less stress on it during the period of recovery so that it can mend.
If your injury is significant, it is really important to get a specialist in TBIs and concussions to help with your diagnosis and treatment. Neurologists, neuropsychologists, neurosurgeons, and ophthalmologists are some of the type of healthcare providers who may be able to help you. They will often have you referred to vocational rehab specialists, speech or language pathologists, occupational therapists, nurse specialists, and other experts.
The CDC has an excellent section on its website with further explanation and resources relative to concussions and traumatic brain injuries. Please check these pages for more information: Recovery, Responding to a Concussion and an Action Plan for Coaches, Potential Long-term Effects, Severe TBI, Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, and Prevention Tips for Children and Teens.
The good news is that most people will recover from a TBI within 3 months or so of the injury. Following the direction of competent healthcare providers is essential. Keeping track of your progress and your problems in a written diary is very important. Avoiding gaps in treatment (i.e., make sure to go to your therapy appointments) is also essential. Hopefully, the above ations will assist you in gaining a complete recovery.
On the other hand, for a significant part of the population, the recovery from a TBI will take a lot longer or may never be complete. In these instances, a great deal of work and planning needs to be done in order to make adaptations for the injured person and his or her family so that they can deal with these long-term consequences. It’s very important to have your attorney and medical team work with a qualified life care planner and get such an expert involved early in the case.
For these reasons, if you have a concussion or TBI, don’t wait to go find an attorney with experience in handling these types of cases. Ask him or her specifically as to how many of these types of cases he or she has handled, whether or not they’ve actually litigated the cases in court, what conferences or seminars they have attended recently on the subject matter of concussions and TBIs, and specifically how they would handle, prepare and present your case. If the attorney can’t answer these questions with real details, keep searching for the right lawyer. Most lawyers, including those of The Poole Law Group, will not charge you a fee for a personal injury consultation. This claim may be a very significant part of your future. You only get one chance to get it right.
1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Division of Unintentional Injury Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/headsup/basics/concussion_whatis.html. Accessed April 18, 2018.
I have to go to court as a witness. What do I need to know?
First, DO NOT be on time. Be there 30 minutes AHEAD of time. Court is stressful and you don’t need to worry of being late, going to the wrong courtroom, not being able to talk to the attorney in advance, etc. Also, make sure you know precisely the court you are headed to (e.g., the address, the particular court number or name, etc.) and clear this up before the day of your appearance. By the way, if your attorney is to go to court with you and that person has never taken the time to meet you before this - be wary. Our experience is that attorneys like this are not adequately prepared.
Second, be polite. Turn your phone off or it might get confiscated, and don’t use foul language. Dress like you are going to a job interview or a contemporary church service. (Tip from past experience: Witnesses testifying with pictures or words regarding illegal drugs or anarchy groups emblazoned on their T-shirts usually are not well-received by the judge or the jury.) Follow the directions of the bailiff - he or she is in charge of the court and is second only to the judge. Just about every bailiff will be good to you if you are good to him or her.
Third, take with you anything that you think might be relevant to the case. This can include pictures, drawings, memos, bills, and recordings. Obviously, if you have an attorney, all of this should be planned out in advance and each of these items should be identified and prepared. However, if the occasion is such that you do not have an attorney, just ask yourself in advance what it is that you have to tell or show the court that is relevant (e.g., would make a difference for the issue being decided).
Fourth, get to the point. If the judge asks you where you were when the car ran the red light and you find yourself telling her about the time in the third grade when you won the soap box derby, rein it in! Believe me, judges have heard it all but they don’t need to hear it ALL when you take the stand. As a general rule, I tell witnesses to give answers of no more than 3 sentence. Let the attorney or judge ask more questions if more information is needed. If you’ve really got something that hasn’t been covered which you think is vital to the case, make your point. If it’s good, most likely the judge won’t react, one attorney will smile and the other one will look like they just received an extra tax bill. If it’s a bomb, the judge will probably let you know quickly. Some are relatively polite but, be forewarned: if you see the carotid artery of your judge’s neck for the first time, it is time to reel it in and start listening more closely.
Fifth, if you’re not sure what happened, find out when court is over. You usually can learn from one of the lawyers or that bailiff you made friends with….
I've been feeling mentally “fuzzy” since the crash. The ER, however, did not diagnose me with a concussion or TBI. Do I need to worry about this?
This is a problem we confront all the time at The Poole Law Group. The answer is that at the start, you need to worry about this enough to make sure that there hasn’t been an oversight about your injuries. On the other hand, you don’t want to panic.
Just because a healthcare provider at the ER or urgent care didn’t diagnose you with a concussion or traumatic brain injury (TBI) doesn’t mean you don’t have one. Keep in mind that both onsite emergency rescue personnel and ER docs and nurses are trained to look for obvious trauma after a crash and treat it (e.g., broken bones, gashes, heavy bleeding, severe back injuries, etc.). Studies show that concussions and TBIs are frequently overlooked or misdiagnosed in these settings. Some studies indicate the misdiagnosis rate exceeds 50%. Oftentimes, too, concussion/TBI symptoms do not fully become apparent because of the body's adrenaline response to an accident. Once the adrenaline rush wears off, the symptoms become more apparent.
What symptoms are indicative of a TBI? Forgetfulness, gaps in your memory as to how the crash occurred or what happened immediately afterward, dizziness, ringing in your ears, any problems or sudden changes to your vision, queasiness in your stomach, difficulty sleeping or wanting to sleep abnormally (e.g., too long or too little) are indicators that you may have a more serious problem. Also, get a family member or someone living with you to keep an eye on you as, frankly, you might not be in shape to properly assess yourself.
Keep a simple journal or mark on your calendar when you notice the symptoms.
The CDC site has an excellent section on TBI’s. It can be found here.
If you find that you do have some of the symptoms and you think that they were not diagnosed properly, do tell your doctor or healthcare provider immediately. Also tell your lawyer promptly. Hopefully your symptoms will heal quickly. However, we’ve had a significant number of clients every year who didn’t have attention paid to early TBI symptoms and they later found that those symptoms were the most difficult to overcome in the long-term. It’s really important to get the proper diagnosis and care early on and also to make sure that your lawyer knows that you’ve got this problem so that it can be a component of the claim made with the defendant's insurance company. Don’t forget that by law, when your case is settled or tried, the result has to deal with not only your past injuries but the effect they will have on your future. It's a one-time shot and there is no ”second chance” to get this right.
What is Personal Injury?
Personal injury is defined by Merriam Webster’s Dictionary as:
- an injury affecting one’s physical and mental person as contrasted with one causing damage to one’s property; or
- an injury giving rise to a personal action at law.
Personal injury encompasses such matters as car accidents, construction accidents, assault and/or battery resulting in injury, medical malpractice, dog bites, asbestos exposure/mesothelioma, birth defects, product liability, wrongful death, truck accidents, pharmacy mistakes, nursing home abuse and neglect, railroad claims, brain injuries, birth injuries. That is to say that any injury caused through no fault of your own would qualify as a personal injury.
At The Poole Law Group, the majority of our personal injury cases are from car accidents. We have also represented a number of people who have been injured from a fall due to a slip or trip. Usually, these falls take place at a store or business where an area has been left in an unsafe or hazardous condition. Though these cases make up the majority of our practice, we have handled many other personal injury cases involving all sorts of matters.
Regardless of the nature of the injury, if you have been injured through no fault of your own, The Poole Law Group, Personal Injury Practice is here to help you. Even if you have suffered a personal injury that we may not handle, we will be able to refer you to a top firm in the state to handle your case. Bruce Poole has quality connections throughout the state from his nearly three decades of practice; his years in Annapolis as a Delegate; and his current service on the board for the University of Maryland Medical Systems and University of Maryland Shock Trauma.
The Poole Law Group, is headquartered in Hagerstown, MD, serves victims of personal injury cases all over Western Maryland, including Washington County, Frederick, and Cumberland. We have also been called upon to successfully handle cases in Baltimore City, the Eastern Shore, and across the state of Maryland.