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Mild Traumatic Brain Injuries

September 24, 2019  |  General  |  No Comments  |  Share

Insurance companies will often claim that a person who has sustained a traumatic brain injury doesn’t have a brain injury in a legal claim. The insurance doctors they hire will say that the “mild” designation means that 100% of these TBI survivors have no permanent consequences. Neither of these are true. It is important that a brain injury lawyer understands how to address these issues with the insurance adjustor, defense doctors and the jury. Our extensive experience in this area is why in addition to handling our own brain injury cases, we are hired by other lawyers in Oregon, Washington and other states to bring our expertise and trial skills to their traumatic brain injury cases.

There are only three medical classifications of traumatic brain injury; mild, moderate and severe. We have successfully handled cases for people with mild, moderate and severe brain injuries.

Approximately 80% of all traumatic brain injuries are defined as “mild” even though the symptoms from a “mild traumatic brain injury” may not be mild at all, and can permanently alter a person’s life. They are also the cases fought most vigorously by the insurance industry because by definition MRIs and CTs are negative. Mild traumatic brain injury cases also often do not have a loss of consciousness or a head strike. A lack of head strike or loss of consciousness does not mean that there was no traumatic brain injury, because no current medical definition requires a head strike or a loss of consciousness in order to cause a brain injury. (In fact, recent studies suggest that a person need not even have a “concussion” in order to have permanent brain trauma, but that cumulative trauma to the brain is what results in long term cognitive and neurodegenerative changes such as CTE and Alzheimers.)

There are very specific definitions of mild traumatic brain injury in the medical literature. These come from medical association “consensus statements” going back to the early 90s that provide exact diagnostic criteria of a mild traumatic brain injury. One of the most common definitions of mild traumatic brain injury used in the United States is from the American Academy of Neurology. It is important to notice whether a defense neurologist hired by the insurance company to defend a brain injury claim, follows the American Academy of Neurology definitions. Defense expert testimony in our cases suggest that insurance defense doctors intentionally disregard the standardized diagnostic criteria in hopes that the plaintiff lawyer isn’t smart enough to know the correct criteria, or that the jury will be mislead into believing them. Insurance doctors are paid to sell doubt to the jury. A traumatic brain injury lawyer must understand every attack on this diagnosis and combat it with the correct definitions and medical literature (to the extent the trial court allows it in cross examination.)

A Grade 1 mild traumatic brain injury under the American Academy of Neurology criterial is no loss of consciousness, with transient confusion, and some concussion symptoms or mental status abnormality, and the Glasgow Coma Score is between 13 and 15. 15 is the best Glasgow Coma Score possible. This presentation after a traumatic event still qualifies as a traumatic brain injury.

A Grade 2 mild traumatic brain injury under the American Academy of Neurology criteria would involve, again, no loss of consciousness, some transient confusion, and some abnormal mental status for over 15 minutes.

A Grade 3, the highest grade of “mild traumatic brain injury,” is one with any loss of consciousness at all. And so if you lost consciousness during your traumatic brain injury, the American Academy of Neurology diagnostic definition says you had a Grade 3 mild traumatic brain injury.

It is important to note that even though the medical definitions of mild, moderate and severe are based upon historical findings of Glasgow Coma Scale scores of a certain number, and whether there is the presence of a frank bleed or not, the loss of consciousness can influence the designation to some degree, because of course if you have a long loss of consciousness or automatically go into a coma, you would be considered to have a “severe” traumatic brain injury.

But, the important thing to note here is that with mild traumatic brain injuries you can have severe symptomatic consequences. So the fact that it’s considered mild under the standard definition does not mean that your symptoms will be mild, and in fact, we’ve represented many people with mild traumatic brain injuries that have ended their careers as doctors, other professionals, and certainly as lay people.

If you are seeking a traumatic brain injury lawyer to handle your brain injury case, please visit our web site at http://deshawlaw.com or call our office at (503) 227-1233 for a free consultation.

Traumatic Brain Injury Lawyer

September 24, 2019  |  General  |  No Comments  |  Share

The work of our law firm is largely based around handling traumatic brain injury cases. It’s what we’re known for. We handle cases both nationally and locally regarding traumatic brain injuries, and Doctor / Lawyer Aaron DeShaw is a resource both for Brain Injury Alliance of Oregon and brain injury survivors. In addition to handling our own brain injury cases, we are hired by other lawyers in Oregon, Washington and other states to bring our expertise and trial skills to their traumatic brain injury cases.

Brain imaging can be important to understanding whether there is a brain bleed that leads to immediate danger, although as discussed in some of our other videos, there are mild, moderate, and severe traumatic brain injuries. Approximately 80% of all traumatic brain injuries are medically defined as “mild traumatic brain injuries,” (even though the symptoms often are not “mild” and can be life changing). We handle mild traumatic brain injury cases along with moderate and severe traumatic brain injury cases at our law firm, but what’s been a historical problem is that CT and MRI tend not to show those traumatic brain injuries. In fact, 80% of all traumatic brain injuries show no abnormalities on MRI or CT.

What we’ve been doing is we’re on the cutting edge using the most advanced MRI scanners, DTI, PET scans, MEG scans, and a number of other technologies in order to find out if there’s anything either physically or electrically or chemically wrong with a person’s brain after the traumatic brain injury. In addition, we use neuropsychology and neuropsychologists to do examinations, neurologists in some case where there’s neurological deficits, and a number of other important things.

In cases where it is necessary we employ advanced MRI scanners, Diffuse Tensor Imaging (“DTI,”) PET scans, Magnetoencephalography (“MEG”) scans, and a number of other technologies in order to find out if there’s anything either physically or electrically wrong with a person’s brain after a traumatic brain injury. In addition, we seek the insights of neuropsychologists in some cases, and neurologists in the small number of cases where there are frank neurological deficits (most of the time people with mild traumatic brain injuries do not have frank neurological changes after a traumatic brain injury, and without a comprehensive neurological examination including computerized eye tracking and computerized vestibular tracking, the neurological examination will often be completely normal. So a normal neurological examination does not mean that a person does not have a traumatic brain injury. We have experience in successfully handling such cases.

As you’ll find in one of our other videos, our office has been set up specifically for people with traumatic brain injuries. We’ve done a number of things to ensure that you would be comfortable at the office, and I personally sit down with every traumatic brain injury client and take between a 45-minute and a five-hour interview with you to find out everything about your case so that we can help represent you in the very best way possible.

If you are seeking a traumatic brain injury lawyer to handle your brain injury case, please visit our web site at http://deshawlaw.com or call our office at (503) 227-1233 for a free consultation.

Amputation Trial Lawyer

April 29, 2019  |  General  |  No Comments  |  Share
Oregon Amputation Trial Lawyer Aaron DeShaw

One of the greatest losses that a person can experience is the loss of an arm or a leg. Our firm has experience in handling amputation cases all the way through trial. In fact, we are one of a small number of law firms in America to have handled an amputation trial to verdict in the last 20 years. We have handled cases including the detachment of an arm as well as several leg amputation cases. Amputations can result from drunk driving, truck crash injuries, car versus motorcycle collisions, and other negligent or reckless activities resulting in very serious injuries to a person’s arm or leg. The law requires that the person at fault for the amputation pay all economic and non-economic (personal) losses experienced by the injured person. In the case of people who undergo an amputation as a result of someone else’s conduct, those financial and personal losses are substantial.

In terms of the financial losses (which the law calls “economic damages”), oftentimes the person will not be able to return to their pre-injury employment, and as a result of that they will usually experience wage loss as well as facing a lifetime of future wage loss or what the law calls “Diminished Earning Capacity.” In an amputation case, we hire a vocational rehabilitation expert and a forensic economist to determine the amount of future wage loss. An amputation lawyer must hire these experts in order to obtain payment for those losses.

Another important financial aspect of these cases are the substantial medical bills that will be required over time. First, the medical bills for our clients with amputations often are $500,000 to $1,000,000 in medical bills before the trial. This amount is called “past medical bills” in most states. We have had clients with as many as 12 surgeries before the amputation in the attempt to save the leg after trauma, and then many surgeries after that. An amputation trial lawyer is tasked with recovering those funds for past medical bills during a trial to be able to pay the hospitals, doctors and / or the insurance companies back that paid for the services. Then, we must consider the future economic losses for the future medical bills of the client. We have learned that oftentimes with an amputation below the knee, an infection will set in and the client will have to get a second amputation above the knee. The probability of that surgery has to be built into the legal case and the future medical bills determined, both in terms of the potential for infection, the necessary medical care, and a potential future surgery. Then that number must also be provided to the insurance company or jury with a request that that those be paid. Again, an amputation lawyer must seek reports from the client’s doctors about those future costs, and hire experts in vocational rehabilitation or life care planners in order to obtain payment for those losses.

A large financial issue in amputation cases is the cost of the prosthetic limbs and the need to replace that prosthetic multiple times over the course of the client’s life. One prosthetic is generally agreed not to be enough for a person as different prosthetics have different purposes (one for walking and a waterproof, slide resistant one for being in the shower for instance). For prosthetics that are closer to providing a restoration of normal movement (and allowing the client to get back to a more normal way of life) tend to cost a lot more money because they involve more complex ankles and foot mechanisms. In the case of an amputated arm, the hand prosthetics can be very complex and sustain repetitive wear. For this reason, every few years the prosthetics have to be replaced because they wear out and start breaking down. When you consider two or more expensive prosthetics with different attachments (such as ankles or prosthetic feet), and then replaced every few years as the cost of healthcare increases, the costs of prosthetics over a lifetime is a very substantial amount of financial loss. Often times the cost for prosthetics alone over a lifetime exceeds $1 million.

Of course, the financial loss is nothing compared to the personal loss of losing an arm or leg. The loss of quality of life associated with the loss of an arm or leg, is devastating for most people. Despite having a prosthetic that allows them to do some things, they often can’t go out and do the activities they used to do before. Dr. DeShaw, as a former doctor, also has unique knowledge of brain based changes and neurological symptoms experienced by amputees including phantom pain and how that will impact the amputee over the course of their life. As a result the “non-economic damages” (the monetary amount used to compensate a person for their personal loss) is very substantial. While the reasonable amount will vary in every case (particularly based upon the state and a person’s lost income and future medical care needs), one jury outside Oregon evaluated a double leg amputation as being worth $95 million (including $83 million for the injured husband and $12 million in loss of consortium for his wife). Another jury outside Oregon evaluated a single leg, below the knee amputation case as being worth $34 million. Values for an amputation case will vary depending upon many factors, and as always the amount of insurance coverage available from the at-fault person often dictates the final outcome of a case for the injured party.

Learning about amputations and prosthetics is a steep learning curve for a lawyer, and the lawyer must be willing to hire highly qualified expert witnesses to provide opinions and testimony including surgeons, a prosthetist, a vocational rehabilitation expert, a forensic economist and more. Medical texts and journal articles will be required and read in order to understand the likelihood for future surgeries and prosthetics. In addition to handling our own cases, and actually trying an amputation trial, we have obtained and studied the trial transcripts of most of the other amputation trials tried in the past 20 years to learn the best methods of trying an amputation case. We know that the outcome of a legal case involving an amputation will impact the rest of the client’s life. The value of a law firm that handles a small number of cases such as our own, allows us to work diligently on behalf of our amputation clients.

If you have sustained a traumatic amputation as a result of someone else’s wrongdoing, it helps to have an amputation trial lawyer with experience. We want to assist those who have sustained a traumatic amputation to be able to get their medical care paid, their future medical care paid, their wage loss paid, and get full compensation for the pain, humiliation, change in quality of life and mental suffering that they’ve experienced and will experience the rest of their life as a result of the loss of their limb.

If you are seeking an amputation trial lawyer to handle your case, please call our office at (503) 227-1233 to schedule a free consultation with a lawyer.

The Real Facts of the McDonald’s Coffee Case

June 2, 2018  |  General, Personal Injury, Trials  |  No Comments  |  Share

Given the serious injuries involved in our client’s cases, and Oregon insurers’ refusal to make reasonable settlement offers (or any offer at all), many of our clients end up in trial because the rest of their life depends upon the outcome of their case.

Perhaps the most important part of a trial is jury selection.  Without twelve unbiased jurors, our client has no chance of receiving justice no matter whether the evidence and law should result in the client being fully compensated for their losses by the jury

During jury selection in every trial, we receive a very strong reaction to questions about “frivolous lawsuits” and in particular to what many people simply refer to as the “McDonald’s coffee case.”  Some politicians and certain elements of the media have twisted this case into an urban myth, rather than reality.  Many people now believe that the woman who sued McDonalds for hot coffee was driving her car and put hot coffee in her lap, and then sued McDonalds for millions of dollars for a getting a little hot coffee on herself without making any attempt to settle the case.  These twisted facts suggest to some Americans the downfall of our society by a greedy woman who failed to take personal responsibility and instead blamed a greatly loved American corporation that had done nothing wrong.

In hopes of setting the record straight, we would like to provide the public the real facts of the case and why a New Mexico jury compensated the woman.

McDonalds intentionally made their coffee so hot, they knew it would burn people.

You may have heard that the woman who sued McDonalds was stupid and that it was her fault because she spilled coffee on herself while she was driving.  The truth is, Stella Liebeck of Albuquerque, New Mexico, wasn’t the driver and the car wasn’t moving. She was the passenger in her grandson’s car when she was severely burned by McDonald’s coffee in February 1992. Liebeck ordered coffee that was served in a Styrofoam cup at the drive-through window of a local McDonald’s.

After receiving the order, Stella’s grandson pulled his car forward and stopped so that she could add cream and sugar to her coffee. Liebeck placed the cup between her knees and attempted to remove the plastic lid from the cup. As she removed the lid, the entire contents of the cup spilled into her lap.

The sweatpants Liebeck was wearing absorbed the coffee and held it next to her skin. A vascular surgeon determined that Liebeck suffered full thickness burns (or third-degree burns) over 6 percent of her body, including her vagina, inner thighs, perineum, buttocks, and groin areas. She was hospitalized for eight days, during which time she underwent skin grafting. Despite the severity of the injury, she sought to settle her claim for only $20,000 – the cost of her medical treatment. But McDonald’s refused. According to some accounts, they offered her $800.

During discovery (the exchange of documents in a legal case), McDonald’s produced documents showing more than 700 earlier claims by people burned by its coffee between 1982 and 1992. Some claims involved third-degree burns substantially similar to Liebeck’s. This history documented McDonald’s knowledge about the extent and nature of the burn hazard of its coffee.  The question is why had the coffee already burned so many people, and why did McDonalds choose to continue making its coffee so hot?

McDonald’s admitted during discovery that, based on a consultant’s advice, it held its coffee at between 180 and 190 degrees Fahrenheit to ensure that it would still be hot once a person had driven several miles to work before drinking it. Other establishments sell coffee at substantially lower temperatures, and coffee served at home is generally 135 to 140 degrees.

McDonald’s quality assurance manager testified that the company actively enforces a requirement that coffee be held in the pot at 185 degrees, plus or minus five degrees. He also testified that a burn hazard exists with any food substance served at 140 degrees or above, and that McDonald’s coffee, at the temperature at which it was poured into Styrofoam cups, was not fit to drink because it would burn the mouth and throat. The quality assurance manager admitted that burns would occur, but testified that McDonald’s had no intention of reducing the “holding temperature” of its coffee.

Stella Lieback’s expert witness, a scholar in thermodynamics as applied to human skin burns, testified that liquids, at 180 degrees, will cause a full thickness burn to human skin in two to seven seconds. Other testimony showed that as the temperature decreases toward 155 degrees, the extent of the burn relative to that temperature decreases exponentially. Thus, if Liebeck’s spill had involved coffee at 155 degrees, the liquid would have cooled and given her time to avoid a serious burn.

McDonald’s asserted that customers buy coffee on their way to work or home, intending to consume it there. But the company’s own research showed that customers intend to consume coffee immediately while driving.  This would be even more true for passengers such as Stella.

McDonald’s also argued that consumers know coffee is hot and that its customers want it that way. But the company admitted its customers were unaware that they could suffer third-degree burns from the coffee.

The jury awarded Liebeck $200,000 in compensatory damages. This amount was reduced by the judge to $160,000 because the jury found Liebeck 20 percent at fault in the spill. The jury also awarded Liebeck $2.7 million in punitive damages, which equals about two days of McDonald’s coffee sales.

An investigation after the jury verdict found that the temperature of coffee at the local Albuquerque McDonald’s had dropped to 158 degrees Fahrenheit.  The jury had sent a message that was understood by the company, which had changed its behavior as a result of the jury verdict.  That is the purpose of the punitive damages provided by the jury – to send a clear message to the defendant that they must improve their business practices for the safety of the public.

After the jury verdict, the trial court reduced the punitive damage amount to $480,000 — or three times compensatory damages — even though the judge called McDonald’s conduct reckless, callous and willful. After this, the parties entered a post-verdict settlement for even less.  This settlement agreement included a confidentiality agreement, which prohibited Stella Liebeck from ever discussing the case.  So, while McDonalds, corporate America, talk show hosts and the media hammered away on her reputation as a greedy person, she could never tell her side of the story about how badly she had been injured.  She died being the namesake of the “Stella Awards” a blog and book about frivolous lawsuits and greedy litigious people.  We find many of the cases included in the Stella Awards misleading, and intended to demean the 7th Amendment of the US Constitution.  People who believe these cases are real will claim to be patriotic Americans, while at the same time attempting to destroy one of the most important rights provided to Americans in the Bill of Rights.

It was only after Stella Liebeck’s death that a documentary called “Hot Coffee” disclosed the real facts of the McDonald’s coffee case.  Unfortunately, many people still believe that a jury who provided compensation to Stella for her third degree genital burns and medical bills after hearing the real facts of the case, was “out of control” leading to what some politicians refer to as “jackpot justice.”  Sadly, we find that rather than listening to the facts of any injury case, some jurors will use firmly held beliefs about incorrect information to provide zero compensation to a legitimately injured person.  This is, of course, exactly what insurers and big corporations want, which is why they have used fake information about the McDonald’s Coffee Case for decades, knowing that McDonald’s had legally prevented Stella Lieback from responding with the truth.  More recently, it has become clear that large corporations, including cigarette manufacturers, financially backed a disinformation campaign surrounding the McDonald’s coffee case to ensure that all jurors are contaminated by bias before sitting on a jury, so that they will provide no compensation to injured people.  This book, and this viral YouTube video discuss the campaign to destroy American’s right to an impartial civil jury trial.

At this point, you should ask yourself what if this was yourself, your girlfriend, your wife, or your mother? How would you feel about McDonalds subjecting you (or her) to this amount of medical bills, and this painful and humiliating kind of injury, and then offering you $800? How would it feel, when you couldn’t accept $800 and cover the other $19,200 in medical bills, when McDonalds, cigarette companies, insurance companies, and petroleum companies went on to destroy your reputation throughout the world? Now how does it feel to have been suckered by corporations, their politicians and talk show hosts to fight against people simply trying to get paid reasonably for their injuries as America’s founders guaranteed in the 7th Amendment?  That makes some people really angry.  And it is really easy to think everyone else is out to hit the “lawsuit lottery” until it is you that is hurt and everyone thinks you are the one who is out for jackpot justice.

This unfounded bias is one of many, but types of jury bias that seriously injured people face when attempting to get fair compensation for their personal and financial losses after someone hurts them.  In Oregon, with no legal consequence for providing a $0 settlement offer, many insurers are forcing seriously injured people to trial in order to get any money for their massive financial and personal losses from an injury.  Insurers are counting on the McDonald’s coffee case to supply them with a high percentage of biased jurors that think that the injured person is greedy, and looking for “jackpot justice” when in fact they are simply attempting to get compensated fairly for a loss that was not their fault.  The defense attempts to shift the American value of personal responsibility away from their client onto our injured client, and in the event of an insufficient verdict – the financial loss is passed on to other taxpayers including the jurors themselves through public benefits necessary to sustain the permanently injured person.

Given our experience in trial, picking a jury and discussing these issues, we do our best to find honest and neutral jurors who will fairly evaluate the evidence and law in a case to arrive at a verdict that fully and fairly compensates our clients for their losses.

Oregon Brain Injury Lawyer Speaks at the North American Brain Injury Society Annual Conference

March 31, 2017  |  Brain Injury, General, Personal Injury  |  No Comments  |  Share

Oregon brain injury lawyer, Aaron DeShaw, is speaking at the 30th North American Brain Injury Society annual conference in New Orleans, which is running concurrently with the World Congress on Brain Injury.  DeShaw is 1 of 13 brain injury lawyers in North America selected to speak over the course of the four day conference.  DeShaw is speaking alongside leading brain injury researchers Dr. Erin Bigler (neuropsychologist and pioneer in neuroimaging), Dr. Mariusz Ziejewski, (chair of the scientific peer review committees for the DoD Post Traumatic Stress Disorder/Traumatic Brain Injury (PTSD/TBI) Research Program, and a member of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration [NHTSA] Collaboration Group on Human Brain Modeling), Dr. Brent Masel (neurologist / endocrinologist researching brain injury impact on hormone levels, and past president of the Brain Injury Association of America), Dr.  James Kelly (founder and director of the National Intrepid Center of Excellence [NICoE], a Department of Defense Institute and concussion researcher at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center).  DeShaw also met internationally renowned neurologist Dr. Frederick Carrick, Clinical Scholar at Harvard Medical School and Senior Research Fellow at University of Cambridge to discuss recent brain research conducted at those universities.

DeShaw also attended the World Congress on Brain Injury, reviewing new brain injury research presented for the first time at the conference by universities and researchers from all over the world.

DeShaw is believed to be the only Oregon brain injury lawyer ever selected to present at an annual NABIS conference.  His presentation is on the improper use of the Fake Bad Scale by insurance company doctors to falsely claim that injured people are malingers (liars).   DeShaw’s lecture exposes that this test, commonly used by insurance company doctors, is not scientifically valid and is used by defense doctors to mislead judges and jurors that an injured person is faking their injury.  The presentation reveals the Fake Bad Scale as junk science that should never be admitted by a judge in a personal injury trial.

In addition to being a nationally known brain injury lawyer, DeShaw is a well known speaker on brain injuries to doctors, lawyers and brain injury survivors.