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NHL Brain Injury Lawyer

March 16, 2016  |  Brain Injury, General, Personal Injury, Resources  |  No Comments  |  Share

Oregon Personal Injury Lawyer Aaron DeShaw is presently accepting NHL Brain Injury Claims.

Lawsuits filed by NHL players for chronic brain damage from repetitive traumatic brain injuries, have been classified as a multi-district litigation case (“MDL”) against the National Hockey League for damages resulting from concussions sustained by NHL players.  Similar to the claims recently made by NFL players, the litigation against the league claims that the NHL knew, or should have known, that regular head strikes were likely to expose players to a substantial risk of brain injuries and diseases, but that the league failed to warn or protect players from permanent brain injuries.

Several retired NHL players suffer from the effects of repetitive traumatic brain injuries, which have resulted in life changing brain injury symptoms. Traumatic brain injuries have been linked to neurological degenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and Parkinson’s Disease. Repetitive concussions have also been conclusively linked to a degenerative brain disorder known as Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (“CTE.”)  [CTE cannot be confirmed until death, however, in recent autopsy studies, 95.6% of deceased NFL players had CTE, leading to widespread concerns about the well being of athletes sustaining repeated blows to the he
ad.]  Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy in athletes is the topic of the recent film “Concussion” starring Will Smith.

Similar to the NHL, the National Football League initially denied any links between repetitive head strikes and CTE, by publishing a series of papers denying any link between football and brain damage, while at the same time quietly paying retired players who were disabled by brain injuries.  The NFL went so far as creating a “Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Committee” who wrote that no NFL player had ever suffered long term brain damage, or other neurological and psychological consequences, as a result of repetitive concussions. “Professional NHL Brain Injury Litigationfootball players do not sustain frequent repetitive blows to the brain on a regular basis,” the NFL’s Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Committee wrote in one 2005 paper. [It comes as little surprise that some of the doctors who sat on the NFL injury validity committee are the same doctors that work for insurers and defense lawyers in denying traumatic brain injuries in personal injury claims.  They get paid to deny traumatic brain injuries for a living.]

Players sustaining  head injuries in the NHL are reporting similar head injury symptoms to the NFL players, including headaches, mood swings, uncontrollable temper, sensitivity to light, seizures, depression, and suicidal thoughts.  Former NHL players claim they would have never played in the league had they known of the risk of permanent cognitive, behavioral and psychological changes caused by repetitive head injuries.

Presently over 115 hockey players are now part of the multi-district litigation against the NHL, seeking damages for the “pathological and debilitating effects of brain injuries caused by concussive and sub-concussive impacts sustained…during their professional careers.” A recent complaint alleges that the NHL’s failure to warn players of TBI risks constitutes fraudulent concealment because the National Hockey League had specialized knowledge of material medical information. Lawyers representing the NHL players assert that there has been extensive literature and research available on the subject, including four international symposia that included medical reports specific to hockey, as well as several conferences in the U.S. focusing on traumatic brain injuries in professional hockey.  The NHL players with a history of brain injury contend there is little chance that the NHL was unaware of the long-term consequences of repeated mild traumatic brain injuries. By withholding that information, the former NHL players claim they relied upon the NHL’s omissions and misrepresentations regarding the degree of risk associated with playing hockey in the NHL. The former players allege that the NHL suppressed evidence of the risks of repetitive concussions, and fostered an unreasonable and unnecessarily violent league.  The players contend that the NHL fostered a culture of violent conduct in order to increase its profits from ticket sales and merchandising on players and teams known to engage in such conduct, even though that violent conduct resulted in an increased risk of concussions for NHL players.

One of the National Hockey League’s defenses in the litigation is that players could have independently spent their time reading medical research and reports to figure out for themselves that repeated head trauma can lead to Alzheimers and other neurological degenerative conditions following repeated concussions. This fails to acknowledge that the NHL was in the best position to collect information on professional hockey and its players, and study the effect of concussions on retired NHL players.  Contrary to the NHL’s position, the former players maintain that they “had no familiarity with or reason to access any medical literature concerning concussions, or other sub-concussive impacts.” Instead the professional athletes state that they relied on their professional sports league for information about known risks of playing the sport, and that they were never informed of the negative long-term effects of sustaining concussions that the NHL already knew existed.

In 2011, the Canadian Medical Association Journal published an analysis of head injury risk in NHL players, which evaluated traumatic brain injuries over the course of several regular hockey seasons.  The study found 559 concussions during regular season games – equal to 1.8 concussions per 1,000 player hours. The most common symptoms of repeated traumatic brain injury found in the study were; dizziness, nausea, neck pain, headache, blurred vision, amnesia, and loss of consciousness.  These symptoms have traditionally been diagnosed as “post concussion syndrome” by doctors, but are now more commonly referred to as the consequences of a “mild traumatic brain injury.”  More serious symptoms included mental and/or physical fatigue and memory loss, which are also common symptoms of a mild traumatic brain injury – no frank bleed is required to cause these symptoms and in only 20% of cases can anything be seen on an MRI or CT after a traumatic brain injury.  These repetitive head injuries can, but do not always result in abnormal neurologic exams.  (All of these are also common symptoms for a person sustaining a one time mild traumatic brain injury in other traumatic injuries such as a motor vehicle collision.  In fact, our office has experience dealing with one-time TBIs which have substantially more brain injury symptoms.)

On August 19, 2014, the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation determined that the NHL concussion injury cases involved common “questions of fact” and that centralization of the cases in the District of Minnesota was appropriate. All similar cases by former NHL players against the NHL were transferred to the District of Minnesota and assigned to the Honorable Susan Richard Nelson for coordinated or consolidated pretrial proceedings. Any subsequent similar case filed in federal court anywhere in the United States will be transferred to the District of Minnesota.

In January 2016, the judge presiding over the brain injury MDL suit demanded the unsealing of emails between NHL executives. The communications are allegedly evidence of their indifference towards player concussions, and relevant to the plaintiffs’ theory that the NHL did not appropriately consider the health of it’s players.

While the NHL denies the allegations (just as the NFL did), the negative publicity surrounding the case and the outcome of the NFL settlements, may steer them away from trial and towards a more favorable settlement for players.

If you are a former NHL player, (or a former NFL player) with a cognitive, behavioral, or psychological injuries that are impacting you, and if you wish to make a legal claim, please contact our office for a free consultation at (503) 227-1233.

Oregon Personal Injury Lawyer attends Brain Injury Alliance of Oregon Annual Conference

March 12, 2016  |  Brain Injury, General, Personal Injury, Resources  |  No Comments  |  Share

Oregon Personal Injury Lawyer Aaron DeShaw is attending the Brain Injury Alliance of Oregon Annual Conference this week.

The conference is a joint conference for Oregon, Washington and Idaho Brain Alliance organizations to bring together brain injury doctors (including MDs, DCs, DOs, neuro-opthomalagists), nurses, speech pathologists, neuro-cognitive rehabilitation specialists, biofeedback providers, auxiliary health care providers, long term care facilities, brain injury support group leaders, veteran affairs, brain injury survivors and family members, and a few brain injury lawyers.

While Dr. Aaron DeShaw is a full time lawyer at our firm, he attends most of the medical programs at the conference to ensure he fully understands the medicine and scientific literature of traumatic brain injuries.

Highlights of the conference involve OHSU Brain Injury Institute director Dr. James Chestnutt (on treatment of concussion in both hospital and cognitive rehabilitation settings), Rolf Gainer of the Neurologic Rehabilitation Institute and Brookhaven Hospital (on permanent cognitive and personality changes of people with traumatic brain injury) and the conference keynote speech by one of the nation’s leading neurologists Dr. Glen Zielinski (on the topic of traumatic brain injuries, post-TBI visual defects, and vestibular rehabilitation) including his successful treatment of people with significant traumatic brain injuries including quadriplegia as well as his work with world class snowboarder Kevin Pearce featured in the movie The Crash Reel.  (Pearce, who had been seen at The Craig Hospital in Colorado, but continued to have residual symptoms).

The annual conference provided great information about the breakthroughs that doctors are making in the detection and treatment of brain injuries.

Aaron DeShaw is a board member of the Brain Injury Alliance of Oregon.

Changes in Auto Insurance Laws

December 17, 2015  |  General, Personal Injury, Resources, Uninsured Motorist  |  No Comments  |  Share

We wanted to inform you of an important recent change in Oregon’s Auto Insurance Laws, which could have a profound impact on you, your family, and friends if you get in an auto accident.

We have long held that in addition to Personal Injury Protection insurance (“PIP”), Uninsured Motorist (“UM”) and Underinsured Motorist (“UIM”) coverage is the most important coverage to protect you and your family.  Our firm’s extensive experience with serious injury claims shows that you cannot rely upon the person who hits you to have sufficient insurance to cover all of the losses you could sustain in a serious crash.  Therefore, it is important to ask your agent for the maximum coverage on UM/UIM insurance, because it is what will financially protect you and your family in the event you are seriously injured in a crash.

Recent legislative changes in Oregon finally allows auto insurance customers to collect on all the coverage you have been paying for with your insurance premiums. Starting with policies issued after January 1, 2016, you will receive the full amount of uninsured motorist coverage (and underinsured coverage) if you are injured by an at-fault, uninsured or underinsured driver.   Due to the serious injury cases we handle, a very high percentage of our clients have to look to their own UM/UIM coverage for insurance on their bodily injury claim because they are hit by people with either no insurance or too little insurance to cover their losses.  Nearly 100% of the professionals we have represented in injury cases have had to rely upon their own Uninsured or Underinsured Motorist coverage, because the people who hurt them don’t have sufficient insurance coverage to pay for the substantial financial losses when the client cannot return to work normally.

How does the new legislation change coverage for people in Oregon?  In the past, Oregon law allowed insurers to offset the amount of UM/UIM coverage you purchased, by the amount of insurance owned by the person who hit you.  As an example, if you were hit by someone with $25,000 in liability insurance, and you also had $25,000 in UM/UIM coverage, Oregon law prohibited you from getting any UM/UIM coverage through your own policy (even though you had paid for the coverage) because the amounts were equal. Only when you had more UM/UIM insurance than the person who hit you, could you ever get access to the difference in the amounts through your own insurer.  Under the old law, the total combined value was the amount of the highest policy, regardless of whether that was the liability policy of the at-fault party, or your own UM/UIM coverage.  This left people paying premiums for insurance coverage that they were prohibited from getting due to Oregon law.

With the new legislation, you will have access to the full amount of the UM/UIM coverage that you purchase.  This means that you will get access to the full additional coverage that you paid for.  As an example, before the new legislation if two people were in a crash and each had $25,000 in coverage, the total available to our client was $25,000.  Under the new legislation, they will have access not only to the at-fault party’s $25,000 in coverage, but also their own underinsured Motorist coverage of $25,000 to equal $50,000 total.  As the seriousness of the injuries increases, and as the amount of the policies on each side increase, this change can have a substantial impact on the outcome of a catastrophic injury case.  This is very important for people who sustain serious injuries of the variety we handle at our office, because it can make the difference between whether they can pay their doctors bills, pay for future treatment, or replace the income that they lose due to the injury.  This is particularly important for anyone who may have a large future diminished earning claim when their ability to work is impacted.

But, in order to get the benefit of the new legislation allowing you to get access to the entire amount, you must act. The law goes into effect on January 2, 2016 for auto insurance policies issued or renewed on or after that date. If your policy doesn’t renew until April and you get in an accident in February, you will not have this additional coverage.

In order to get the full coverage you have been paying for, and to qualify under the new law, you need to call or email your auto insurance company and tell your agent that you want your auto policy reissued effective January 2, 2016. Agents should quickly be able to help, including letting policyholders know if a reissue, rather than waiting for the scheduled renewal, might negatively impact other insurance you hold, such as umbrella coverage.  For those who have an old umbrella policy (in most cases 10 years or older), you should be very careful about renewing that umbrella policy under different terms, as certain types of coverage are no longer available under new Umbrella policy terms.  In particular, this includes umbrella coverage for UM/UIM situations.  Insurers stopped providing UM/UIM coverage as part of their umbrella policies, and if you still have that coverage under old umbrella policy coverage, you do not want to have an agent change that language.   Please make sure you discuss this with your agent to ensure that an older umbrella policy is not changed with different terms.

In addition to changes in the UM/UIM coverage, the legislature also extended the period of health care coverage from one year to two years under the Personal Injury Protection insurance in an auto policy.  This will hopefully allow people who are seriously injured to receive the care they need before being cut off from payment for their health care needs.

If you have questions about insurance coverage for your serious injury claim, feel free to contact us for a free consultation at (503) 227-1233.

 

New PIP, Uninsured Motorist and Underinsured Motorist laws passed in Oregon

April 17, 2015  |  General, Personal Injury, Resources  |  No Comments  |  Share

1in7driversThe Oregon legislature recently passed legislation regarding auto insurance that will be helpful for Oregonians seriously injured in a car crash, as well as the Oregon doctors and hospitals who treat them.  Senate Bill 411 does a number of things regarding Personal Injury Protection insurance, as well as Uninsured Motorist and Underinsured Motorist insurance coverage.

First, in regard to Personal Injury Protection, this is the type of coverage that a passenger gets from the car they are in, which covers medical expenses up to one year (or a maximum of $15,000 in most cases) or whenever the insurance company decides to terminate their care with an insurance doctor’s examination.  In addition, “PIP” insurance can cover up to 70% of a person’s monthly wage loss (or a maximum of $3,000 / month) for one year if a doctor confirms the person is unable to work after a car wreck.  Oregon has historically had a limitation of only one PIP policy’s coverage. With many of our seriously injured clients, the $15,000 in medical coverage is used by an ambulance ride and an ER visit on the first day of the crash.  The client is then left with no ability to receive any additional medical care for their injuries.  Any payments made by the auto insurer (or their health insurer), and any doctors who will see them on a lien, all have to be paid back out of the settlement or verdict. When all of the PIP is used early due to the severity of injury, this can leave Oregon doctors waiting for years to receive payment if they decide to provide care to a patient who doesn’t have additional insurance.

The new legislation improves PIP slightly for those seriously injured.  In the event a passenger is in someone else’s car with Oregon auto insurance, but they have their own separate Oregon auto insurance policy, the new legislation allows injured people to “stack” those two PIP coverages together so that the person can get the benefit of the insurance they paid for, in addition to the coverage available in a car owned by someone else.  (This stacking will not apply if someone is injured in their own car, as it is only one policy that covers both the car and the person.)  Stacking will allow some individuals to get a bit more insurance coverage for medical care to cover part of their staggering medical bills caused by someone else’s negligence.  The legislation also requires PIP policies to extend payments out to two years, which is more in line with what medical literature says is the period at which doctors can determine whether a serious  injury is permanent or not.

All this said, insurers can and do regularly terminate care for injured people before the PIP insurance is intended to stop.  Under Oregon’s PIP laws, which remain in effect, insurers can terminate care anytime the insurance doctors terminate an injured person’s healthcare coverage.  This is a shadow industry known to very few people who have not been injured, in which doctors can make a career out of terminating injured people’s care, rather than treating patients to help them.  More than any other cause, our clients hire a lawyer because their own insurer attempts to terminate their ability to receive medical care with an “Insurance Medical Exam” or “IME.”

Senate Bill 411 also addresses a long standing problem regarding “Uninsured Motorist” (sometimes called “UM” insurance)  or “Uninsured Motorist” (often called “UIM” insurance) coverage.  This is the type of insurance coverage that is required in Oregon to cover instances where an Oregonian is injured either by someone with no insurance, or by someone who has too little insurance for the injuries they cause.  Approximately 1 in 7 motor vehicle crashes in Oregon involve at-fault drivers who are not insured and many more drivers don’t have enough insurance for the damage they cause.  This is particularly true in cases where there are serious and permanent injuries where the personal and financial losses will be high for the injured person.

Historically, Oregon’s Uninsured Motorist, and Underinsured Motorist laws have been subtractive.  If the at-fault driver had $25,000 in insurance coverage, and the injured person had $25,000 in Underinsured Motorist coverage, the injured person could only get $25,000 total no matter how big their medical bills were, how much money they were going to lose by not working in the future, or how severely they were injured.  Oregon law allowed insurers to subtract the amount of the at-fault driver’s insurance from the injured person’s own Underinsured Motorist insurance, sometimes leaving the person with no insurance benefit despite paying money for underinsured motorist insurance coverage.  Senate Bill 411 changed the law to allow UM/UIM policies to “stack” on top of the coverage available from the insurance of the at fault driver.   This means now, if the driver who caused the crash has $25,000 in liability coverage, and the injured person has a $25,000 Underinsured Motorist policy, the injured person could conceivably have access to $50,000 in coverage rather than $25,000.  This will be of some benefit to our clients, although we will still face cases where there are medical bills and personal losses that are many times greater than all insurance policies added together.  Part of our job in such cases is to get as much of the insurance policy we are able to obtain, and then negotiate with ambulance companies, hospitals and medical clinics to minimize the lifelong debt that our client will have due to someone else injuring them.

Overall, this is a step in the right direction for Oregonians, although Oregon’s ongoing lack of bad faith insurance laws allow insurers to continue abusing injured people and business policyholders by failing to pay the claims and forcing people into litigation for serious, life altering losses by making settlement offers that are a fraction of their actual value.  This is why seriously injured people, and businesses with large insurance losses are forced to hire trial lawyers to take the insurers to trial.

Our firm deals with a large percentage of Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist cases because we handle serious injury claims where the person who is at fault either didn’t have insurance, or didn’t have enough to cover our clients losses.

It is important that before you settle a case on your own, that you consult with a lawyer to determine if you will destroy your own Underinsured Motorist claim, as certain steps must be taken before settling a claim with the at-fault driver.

 

Oregon Personal Injury Lawyer Contributes to New Legal Book

February 9, 2015  |  General, Personal Injury, Resources  |  No Comments  |  Share

roma-anatomy_lgOregon Personal Injury Lawyer, Aaron DeShaw, has been honored by being invited to contribute to the American Association for Justice’s legal textbook Anatomy of a Personal Injury Lawsuit, with some of the greatest trial lawyers in American history. The culmination of over three years of work with over 50 of America’s leading trial lawyers and litigation experts, this two volume book set contains a wealth of information for practicing trial lawyers. The books provide practical advice on issues ranging from client intake, case investigation, insurance claims issues, medical causation, trial methods, and much more. Edited by John Romano of Florida, the book features nearly 1000 pages of practical advice by lawyers who have a career of achieving significant outcomes for their clients, including Gerry Spence, Mark Lanier, Randi McGinn, Peter Perlman, Patrick Malone, Michael Burg, Judith Livingston, Robert Habush, David Wenner, Bill Barton and many more.

Attorney Aaron DeShaw was invited by the American Association for Justice to write a chapter of the book on insurance claim practices.  DeShaw’s chapter includes how auto claims are divided and analyzed at auto insurance companies, including the designation of claims into categories such as Policy Limits Cases, First Call Settlements, Special Investigations Unit (fraud investigations), minor impact or “MIST” cases, and other cases that are evaluated either traditionally by adjustors or through bodily injury insurance claims software such as Colossus.  DeShaw is the best known author in the country on the topic of Colossus, having written two 400+ page books on the topic for doctors and lawyers.

DeShaw and the other authors contributed to the book so that lawyers could do a better job helping injured people.