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The frequency of traumatic brain injury (TBI) for Americans is eight times greater than that of breast cancer, spinal-cord injury, multiple sclerosis, and AIDS combined. TBI is a serious, and potentially-life threatening medical condition that affects an estimated 1.7 million people annually. Of those, about 275,000 will require hospitalization, and approximately 52,000 will die.

Common causes of TBIs include high-impact sports, motor vehicle accidents, and falls. Although TBIs can affect any person at any age, our risk of TBI increases as we get older. Adults age 75 and older have the greatest risk of hospitalization and death from TBI.

Despite its prevalence in the U.S., TBI remains a commonly misunderstood, misdiagnosed, and mistreated medical condition. The myths below can lead to improper treatment, irreparable damage, and even death.

Myth #1 -TBI is always preceded by a loss of consciousness.

Recent advances in the medical community’s understanding of TBI have debunked this rather controversial myth. Today, the general consensus among doctors experienced in TBI is that a patient does not need to lose consciousness to suffer a TBI.

Myth #2 – If the individual looks fine and has no immediate symptoms, TBI is not a concern.

A person who has suffered a TBI may retain consciousness, appear healthy, and be able to walk and talk normally. TBI symptoms are often so subtle that the patient simply feels “off,” or slightly different. For some people, TBI symptoms don’t become apparent for weeks or months. Even so, they may have sustained serious internal damage. If untreated, this damage could lead to permanent psychological and neurological problems. A Boston personal injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you believe you’ve suffered a TBI.

Myth #3 – Mild TBIs are not a big deal.

Even mild concussions and TBIs can have life-long psychological and neurological consequences. Symptoms of a mild TBI may include headaches, nausea, dizziness, noise and light sensitivity, problems with balance, vision and hearing problems, sleep problems, memory loss, personality changes, irritability, impulsivity, aggression, and depression.

Myth #4 – A TBI will always show up on a brain imaging scan.

Although MRI and CT scans can be helpful, this type of neuroimaging is rarely able to detect the structural differences caused by a mild TBI. These scans may appear normal, even if serious damage has been done. Slight differences, such as axonal shearing, may be too subtle to appear on the scan. That being said, other types of neuroimaging may be more effective at detecting structural differences in the brain. Functional imaging, including functional PET and MRI scans, may detect mild TBI and concussion. Unfortunately, functional testing is rarely used in clinical settings.

It’s important to know the symptoms of TBI, but it’s equally important to understand that symptoms may not be immediately apparent. If you have suffered any type of trauma to the head, it is in your best interest to seek immediate medical attention. There are many myths about TBI, and some of these misconceptions can lead to long-term or permanent damage. A MA personal injury lawyer can help you recover damages if you’ve been harmed due to another’s negligence. Continue reading

Moments after being reprimanded by one of his professors at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), 25-year old Han Nguyen committed suicide. Nguyen had been struggling with depression, according to his attorney, but the prestigious university failed to get him the treatment he required. Could MIT be liable for a student’s suicide?

Universities across the nation are watching this legal battle unfold, with baited breath. A decision against MIT would likely cause alarm in institutions of higher education. Critics believe that such a decision would put an unfair burden on employees who are not trained to detect potentially-suicidal students. But Nguyen’s family claims that officials at the university knew of his suicide risk and did nothing to help. According to court records, a professor told colleagues to pass Han or they might end up with “blood on their hands,” and he was “read the riot act” moments before committing suicide for an allegedly-inappropriate email he had sent.

According to MIT, the school was unaware of the severity of Nguyen’s condition because he was receiving treatment by outside professionals. In fact, he had refused on-campus treatment.

“Mr. Nguyen’s suicide was a tragedy. That does not warrant a legal conclusion that MIT or any individual associated with MIT had a legal duty to prevent it”

We will continue to monitor this case and have blog updates once the court rule on this important issue.

Could a Decision Against MIT Have Unintended Consequences?

Harvard and Boston College, along with 16 other colleges and universities, have voiced concerns that a decision in favor of Nguyen’s family could have harmful consequences. Fearing liability, untrained professors and other staff might overreact to situations concerning students’ safety, resulting in a reluctance among students to report their problems. Dr. Paul Appelbaum, a psychiatrist at Columbia University, thinks their concerns are valid.

“To the extent that you heighten every resident assistant’s sensitivity to the risk of suicidality, with the threat of liability hanging over them, they are far more likely to over predict, over intervene, see it where it’s not,” said Appelbaum.

Did MIT Fulfill its Duty to Provide Reasonable Care?

But supporters of Nguyen’s family think these concerns are invalid. According to the family’s attorney, they only wish to affirm that the duty to provide a reasonable level of care ““extends to the ivory tower as it does every other civilized corner of the Commonwealth.”

In 2005, a MA judge ruled that an MIT dean and housemaster were not responsible for the death of a student who set fire to herself on campus. However, Elizabeth Shin’s case was eventually settled for an undisclosed amount. A Boston injury lawyer can help you recover damages if you’ve been injured due to another’s negligence.

MIT has refused to respond to questions about the Nguyen case, but said in a statement that it “remains committed to the well-being of its students, offering a robust network of support resources, including comprehensive mental health services.” Continue reading

In November 2013, Suzanne Barnum was injured when she tripped over a pallet jack in a Home Depot store in Joliet, Illinois. As a result, she is suing both Home Depot and an outside vendor for her injuries. In this particular case, the question of who left the pallet jack in the aisle has been difficult to answer. At the time of the incident, employees of Glenn Walters Nursery were in the store, and may have been assisting with the pallet jack. However, both nursery employees and Home Depot employees deny that they were responsible for leaving the pallet jack unattended. According to evidence, it could have been an employee of either company.

The home improvement retailer requested that Barnum’s injury and liability claims be dismissed, arguing that they are “based on speculation and, therefore, have not created a genuine issue of material fact showing that either defendant breached its duty of ordinary care to plaintiff.”   Both Home Depot and Glenn Walters Nursery requested summary judgment, which is appropriate when a plaintiff fails to prove key elements of his or her claim.

“More Likely than Not”

Magistrate Judge Susan E. Cox denied the request for a summary judgment, writing that: “In this case, the court finds that plaintiff has pointed to sufficient evidence in the record from which it can be inferred that either defendant was more likely than not to have left the pallet jack in the aisle of the garden center.”

The home goods giant and the local nursery have cited Piotrowski v. Menard in their arguments. In the Piotrowski case, a customer tripped over planter stones that had spilled onto a walkway at a Menard’s store. However, the stones could have ended up on the walkway for a number of reasons, including simply rolling out of the nearby planter, or that a customer or child moved them. In Barnum’s case, however, the explanations as to how the pallet jack ended up in the aisle are limited. Customers are not allowed to use or move pallet jacks, so the chance of anyone other than an employee or vendor being involved is slim to none.

Witness statements suggest that an employee from either company could have left the pallet jack in the aisle. There is evidence that nursery employees used it that morning, but also that a Home Depot employee helped them. Both continue to deny responsibility. A Boston personal injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured due to another’s negligence.

“Glenn Walters Nursery’s internal communications suggest that it was a Home Depot employee, which is sufficient evidence to infer that it was more likely than not Home Depot that was responsible for leaving the pallet jack in the aisle, thereby defeating its motion for summary judgment,” wrote Cox. However, such evidence doesn’t exonerate nursery employees. As such, Glenn Walters’ request for summary judgment was also denied.  Continue reading

A little girl suffered a fatal fall on a Carnival cruise ship last week, raising questions about whether cruises are safe for young children. Zion Smith, an eight-year-old from the Bahamas, was waiting with her family to disembark the ship. Smith and her brother were leaning on an upper-deck railing to watch other guests disembark when she fell two stories to a deck below. According to Miami Dade Police, the ship was docked at PortMiami at the time of the accident. The child was rushed to the hospital, where she later died.

Jennifer de la Cruz, a spokeswoman for Carnival, assured the public that Carnival is an extremely safe cruise line for everyone, children included. She said that the railing from which the girl fell was 47-inches high.

“We hold broad appeal to the family market based on the fun, safe and secure vacation experience we provide,” said de la Cruz. She went on to say that more children cruise on Carnival than any other cruise line. Approximately 800,000 children are expected to sail on Carnival in 2017.

Lifeguards on Duty?

Other cruise lines, including Norwegian and Royal Caribbean, have made headlines in recent years for drownings on onboard swimming pools. In response, several cruise lines have added lifeguards, but it’s still “swim at your own risk” on many cruise ships. A Boston personal injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured on a cruise ship.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, there were 30 reported incidents during the three-month period between April and June 2017. These included 19 sexual assaults and a missing person. And in 2016, the Carnival Pride struck a gangway while docked in Baltimore, causing more than $2 million in damages.

Types of Cruise Accidents

The numbers above may sound high, but remember that millions of people take cruises without incident every year. When accidents do occur, they are generally classified as one of the following:

  • Mechanical – power loss, fire
  • Weather related – storms, hurricanes, heavy fogs
  • Illness – gastrointestinal problems, such as Norovirus and Influenza, and other outbreaks of food poisoning or fever
  • Injuries – fractures, assault, sexual assault
  • Criminal offenses – theft, indecent exposure, drug possession
  • Deaths – missing persons, onboard drowning, falling or jumping overboard, murder, suicide, heart attack
  • Disasters – collisions, sinking, pirate attacks, capsizing

Although the above accidents and incidents are all possible, most are rare. Norovirus illness is actually one of the most common cruise injuries, with an average of 15 outbreaks annually. Continue reading

Hundreds of thousands of people in the United States have what are known as “metal-on-metal” hip implants. These all-metal implants were thought to be stronger and provide better range of motion than their ceramic and plastic counterparts. Although all-metal hip implants may be more durable, they are definitely not safer.

The Worst Offenders

All hip implants come with a risk of complications, but the all-metal hip implants with the worst failure rates are the following:

  • Depuy ASR
  • Depuy Pinnacle
  • Stryker Accolade
  • Stryker ABGII
  • Stryker LFIT Anatomic Heads
  • Stryker Rejuvenate

The above hip implants are linked to unreasonably-high incidences of infection, nerve damage, dislocation, fracture, blood clots, and a serious condition called Metallosis. A Boston defective medical products attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured by an all-metal hip implant.

Symptoms of Complications with a Hip Implant

The above medical complications can be quite serious if left untreated. So, how do you know if your hip implant is failing? Common symptoms of implant failure include:

  • Severe and chronic pain in the hip, groin, or leg
  • Mobility problems
  • Swelling around the hip joint
  • Clicking and grinding noises while walking

What Causes All-Metal Implants to Fail?

The hip implants listed above are made of chromium and cobalt, two different types of metal that create friction when rubbed together. Unfortunately, this friction may result in the release of metal debris into the blood stream and surrounding tissue. The release of too much metal debris can become toxic. When metal builds up in the blood and soft tissues, it can lead to a painful inflammatory condition called Metallosis. Left untreated, Metallosis can be fatal. A MA defective medical device lawyer can help you recover damages if you’ve been injured by an all-metal hip implant.

Thousands of patients have suffered serious medical conditions and debilitating pain after receiving an all-metal hip implant. In addition to the medical complications listed above, all-metal hip implants are linked to the formation of pseudo tumors (non-cancerous cell masses filled with fluid), kidney and thyroid problems, bone deterioration, and cancer. And most of these patients required costly, painful revision surgeries to remove and / or replace the failed implant. Hip implants are supposed to improve mobility, reduce pain, and make life easier. Unfortunately, for thousands of patients, the opposite has been true. Continue reading

Last month a fatal charter bus accident killed three people in Queens, New York. This tragedy has called attention to a glaring, and growing, problem. Thousands of private bus companies with countless violations and terrible safety records continue to operate in the United States every day. While public transportation is closely regulated by local governments, private bus companies are not.

Dahlia Group, the bus line involved in last month’s fatal accident, has had two other fatal crashes. And the bus driver in the Queens crash, who is reported to have been speeding, has a past drunk driving conviction. As horrible as Dahlia’s record may sound, it’s far from the worst. Yep Tour is a private bus company currently operating in NYC. In the past two years, Yep has received more than 200 safety violations. Despite the fact that Yep has failed to pay more than $300,000 in fines, the city still issued a transportation permit to the Massachusetts-based company.

In the United States, there are currently more than 3,200 private bus companies, many of which have horrific safety violation records, and are notorious for overworking employees and overlooking vehicle maintenance. Unfortunately, these dangerous violations often go unnoticed until a tragic bus accident makes headlines. Budget bus companies certainly provide an in-demand service, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of riders’ lives. A Boston personal injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured by another’s negligence.

Public Transportation isn’t Always Safer

At least not when it comes to the Boston area. The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) has recently been in the spotlight for serious safety violations, injuries, and even fatalities. Crushing debt may be at least partially to blame. Trains catching fire, speeding and texting bus drivers, train collisions, and bus-pedestrian crashes are just a few of the high-profile accidents marring MBTA’s reputation in recent years. The transportation agency’s $7.3 billion repair backlog certainly isn’t helping. At about 1.3 million rides per day and counting, the MBTA is the country’s fifth-largest transit system, but funding is only a fraction of that of peer agencies.

“The problem we have is a problem of literally decades of disinvestment,” former Massachusetts DOT director Jim Aloisi told Streetsblog. A MA injury lawyer can help you recover damages if you’ve been injured in a bus accident.

Local Law takes a Back Seat to Federal Law

Despite MBTA’s checkered past, public transportation is generally safer, and held to higher standards, than private companies. California state lawmakers attempted to improve private bus line safety regulations last year, following a fatal charter bus crash that killed 10 people. When he proposed the addition of certain safety features, State Senator Ricardo Lara learned the hard way that federal law is king when it comes to private bus lines. Local laws took a back seat, and his requests for safety windows and better data keeping were replaced with markedly weaker legislation, such as requiring drivers to show passengers how to use emergency exits.

“It is frustrating that local legislatures can’t do more to make buses safer, even if it just means putting recommendations made at the federal level into state law,” said Mr. Lara. “We got the most we could with safety lights and training for passengers, but our hands were tied by outdated federal safety regulations.” Continue reading

We all know that texting and driving is dangerous, but what about texting and walking? In 2016, a total of 5,987 pedestrians were fatally injured in the United States, an increase of nine percent from the previous year. And research shows that this increase is at least partially due to smart phone use. On Wednesday, Honolulu will become the first major city to enact legislation aimed at solving this growing problem. The Hawaiian city’s new law will allow police to stop and fine pedestrians who are looking at their phones instead of paying attention to their surroundings.

When people text and walk, they have four times the risk of inadvertently engaging in another dangerous action, such as jaywalking. Initiatives to combat “cellphone zombies” are popping up around the world. Mumbai has no-selfie zones, small cities in the Netherlands and Germany have installed LED-illuminated crosswalks, and other cities are posting prominent warning signs. In response to Honolulu’s new law, several other cities and states are considering similar legislation.

Honolulu is the first major city to pass a walking-and-texting ban, but at least one smaller municipality actually got there first. Rexburg, Idaho adopted a citywide ban on distracted walking in 2011, after five pedestrians were killed in a short period of time.

“It was a shock to our system,” said Stephen Zollinger, the city attorney for Rexburg.

In response, pedestrians are prohibited from using hand-held devices while in Rexburg, unless they are talking on the phone. The small city hasn’t had a pedestrian fatality since the ban went into effect. A Boston injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured due to another’s negligence.

Are Safer Vehicles the Answer?

Not everyone is convinced that distracted walking legislation is the answer. Janette Sadik-Khan, former commissioner of New York City’s Department of Transportation, thinks such laws distract from more important issues, such as poor road design and driver speed. In addition, Sadik-Khan thinks that improved vehicle design could help. According to Deborah A.P. Herman, the National Safety Council’s president and chief executive, features such as softer bumpers can greatly reduce the severity of injuries in a pedestrian crash. Unfortunately, only 44 countries require that automobile manufacturers incorporate these safety features. Not surprisingly, the United States isn’t one of those countries. A MA injury lawyer can help you recover damages if you’ve been injured due to another’s negligence.

To some people, bans on walking and texting seem a bit like Big Brother. But keep in mind that this legislation isn’t the first traffic-related legislation to seem a bit intrusive. Laws enforcing seatbelt use, for example, were quite controversial initially. Time will tell if texting-and-walking bans have a measurable impact on pedestrian safety. In the meantime, if you have plans to visit Honolulu, don’t forget to put your smart phone away as you cross the street. And check back for updates on other U.S. cities. Boston may not be far behind. Continue reading

If you’ve been bitten or attacked by a dog, who is liable for your injuries? In MA, a dog’s owner may be liable for any damages the dog causes, barring certain circumstances. For example, if the victim was trespassing at the time of the incident, the dog’s owner will likely be off the hook. Read on for more information about dog bite injuries in MA, and how to proceed if you’ve been bitten.

Negligence vs. Strict Liability

When it comes to dog bites, states generally operate under the theory of “negligence” or “strict liability.” MA is a “strict liability” state. This essentially means that the injured person does not need to show that the dog’s owner was negligent. The owner may even be liable if the victim had been informed that the dog was prone to biting before the incident. And the strict liability rule also applies to other injuries and damages caused by dogs. If a dog knocks an elderly person down, for example, the owner may be liable for resulting injuries.

Statute of Limitations

In MA, you have three years from the date of the dog bite within which to file suit. This state of limitations is extremely important; if you fail to file a court case before the specified deadline, your chances of success are almost non-existent. A Boston dog bite injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been bitten or attacked by a dog.

Dog Bite Statistics

The following facts and figures provide insight into the frequency and severity of dog bites in the United States.

  • About 4.5 million dog bites occur in the United States annually.
  • In 2016, dog-related injuries accounted for more than 30 percent of all homeowners insurance liability claims – a total of more than $600 million.
  • More than 6,750 U.S. postal workers were attacked by dogs in 2016.
  • Between 1993 and 2008 there was an 86 percent increase in hospitalizations involving dog bites.

When is the Owner Liable?

In Chapter 140, Section 155 of MA General Laws, a dog’s owner may be liable for injuries under the following circumstances.

  • The dog caused damages or injuries

            and

  • The victim was not trespassing at the time of the incident.
  • The victim was not committing a tort at the time of the incident.
  • The victim did not provoke the dog.

The above statute also applies to other injuries and property damage caused by dogs. If, for example, a dog chews through a neighbor’s fence, the neighbor may sue for property damages. A MA dog bite injury lawyer can help you recover damages if you’ve been injured by a dog.

Owner Defenses

As with most personal injury lawsuits, the individual being sued is likely to present a defense explaining why he or she should not be liable. When it comes to dog bites, the owner will usually present one of two defenses.

  • Trespassing: If the victim was trespassing on private property, homeowner liability is seriously limited.
  • Provocation: If the victim was provoking the dog, the owner may not be liable. The MA dog injury statute specifically states that the owner is not liable if the injury occurs while the injured person is “teasing, tormenting or abusing” the dog.

Continue reading

While she was suffering from a drug overdose, a woman was transferred by ambulance from Baptist Memorial Hospital in Oxford, Mississippi to another BMH facility about 100 miles away. The Jane Doe now claims that during the transfer, she was sexually assaulted by a paramedic. Bryan Englebert, the EMT accused of sexual assault, plead guilty and is currently serving a minimum of five years in prison. But the victim is blaming more than her assailant.

When we go to the hospital – or any health care professional, for that matter – we have no choice but to put our lives and well-being in their hands. Hospitals and medical professionals owe us a duty of care to protect us from further harm, at the very least, while in their care. Medical professionals can make honest mistakes; they’re only human. But when negligence is a factor, a provider and / or health care facility may be liable for any resulting damages, including medical expenses, pain and suffering, and lost wages. A Boston personal injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured by another’s negligence.

Doe alleges that the hospital’s failure to provide proper training and supervision to its employees, as well as its lack of an adequate safety policy, put her in harm’s way. In her lawsuit, she claims that Englebert sexually battered and assaulted her while the driver, Matthew Austin, videotaped the assault. Doe was incapacitated during the incident, and has a history of mental health issues. As such, the hospital owed her an even higher duty of care. She is suing for negligence and negligent infliction of emotional distress. According to her lawsuit, Doe suffered significant physical injury, and mental trauma and suffering.

Hospital Liability

So, when is the hospital liable, and when is it just an honest mistake? Fortunately, the vast majority of medical professionals have the best interest of patients in mind at all times. However, even good doctors can make serious mistakes when fatigued or under extreme pressure or stress. Sometimes, mistakes are due to inexperience. Other times, lack of communication, administrative problems, and even bad handwriting are the culprit. And occasionally, health care-related injuries can be a result of gross negligence. A MA personal injury lawyer can help you determine whether negligence played a role in your particular case.  Continue reading

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), children’s car seats are commonly installed incorrectly. More often than not, actually. Thanks to research and advancements in technology, car seats get safer every year. But it seems that the safer they become, the more complicated they are to use, with a vast array of anchors, chest clips, tethers, and pages of confusing instructions. The NHTSA reports that 59 percent of car seats are installed improperly.

Pediatrician Benjamin Hoffman believes that percentage is much higher. According to Hoffman’s research, 95 percent of newborn seats are being misused. Rear-facing and forward-facing seats are also a problem, with an 80 percent rate of misuse. A MA injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if your child has been injured due to another’s negligence.

“If you give a test and 95 percent of the people taking it fail, you have to assume there’s something wrong with the test,” said Hoffman. “Car seats are hard to use and there’s a lot of factors that feed into that.”

The Right Seat for My Child

And the problems don’t only lie with the installation of the seats. Selecting the right seat for your child’s age, weight, and height can also be an issue. “Every kid is sized differently and every car seat is sized differently, so it can be difficult,” said AAA spokeswoman Beth Mosher.

Don’t let price fool you. “The least expensive car seat meets the same federal standards as more expensive car seats,” said Hoffman. The types, styles, and brands of car seats can be overwhelming. Fortunately, many retailers are flexible about allowing you to see if the seat works for you, and returning it if it does not.

Common Errors

Once you’ve purchased your seat, local police stations and AAA locations often provide inspections of car seats at no cost. The need for such a service is evidenced by attending any of the multiple car seat clinics offered around the country. During these inspections, the most common errors found include:

  • Switching to a front-facing seat before the child is ready.
  • Switching to a booster seat before the child is ready.
  • Improper use of hooks, tethers, and belts that lock the child’s seat to the car.
  • Failing to ensure that harnesses fit the child snugly.

Car accidents are the leading cause of death for children between the ages of one and 13. Many of these deaths can be prevented with a properly installed car seat. “It’s really important to continue to hammer on the industry that they need to help us protect everybody,” Hoffman said.

Is it Defective?

Sometimes the issue isn’t with the installation or use, but with the product itself. Millions of car seats have been recalled due to design flaws including flammable materials, and defective harness systems. Having your car seat inspected once you’ve installed it may help to detect any defective, broken, or missing parts. A Boston injury lawyer can help you recover damages if a defective car seat has caused harm to your child. Continue reading