The Harper Law Blog

The Harper Law Blog offers news, announcements, thoughts and articles on life, law and our practice areas of emphasis.

Call the police after a collision and know your location when you call

Posted Saturday, July 14, 2007 by Ed Harper

After collisions, people often assume there is no need to contact the police if there is an exchange of information. However, for accident reconstruction purposes, the law enforcement officer can document certain items that may be in dispute later. For example, whether in his opinion someone was at fault for the accident. Secondly, whether one of the drivers should receive a traffic citation can be determined by the officer as well. Both of these items, while not always admissible in a subsequent civil claim, proving the validity of claim is vastly improved by having an officer’s report.

Additionally, 911 operators are having a difficult time determining the whereabouts of many collisions and 911 calls because of the advent of the cellular phone. One who dials 911 should be able to quickly inform the operator there location. Landlines have the ability to inform the emergency dispatch operators where the call is originating from, but cellular phones do not. Progress is being made to the 911 system, but it may be several years before even the most urbanized areas of our country have this ability.

Thus, know where you are located and call 911 after a collision. Tell the dispatcher that you are requesting assistance after a collision. If any one is complaining of injuries, ask for an aid car for emergency personnel in order to evaluate the injuries.

Ask to be transported by ambulance if you are injured. IF there is any question as to the severity of injuries, it is always best to be evaluated as soon as possible. Additionally, you will be seen much more quickly at the emergency room if you are brought in by ambulance, rather then driving yourself. Also, if an ER department is too busy, the aid car drivers will call ahead and determine this situation. Thus, you can be routed to a less busy ER department.

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Injuries in Motor Vehicle Collision #2

Posted Saturday, July 14, 2007 by Ed Harper

Car Accidents

Side impacts have a tremendous potential for causing serious back, neck and brain damage. Little protection for the driver and/or passenger exist to withstand the force of a direct impact on the doors of most vehicles. Side air bags help but the twisting motion exerted on one’s body cause damaging effects. The torque in these collisions, (a rotating force) on the spine often causes long-term consequences. Vehicles that have seats that reducing any sliding movement and absorbs the force will help in a side impact.

Injury prevention

Activity and regular physical exertion can help prevent serious back injuries when they do occur. Having a strong core, strong abdominal muscles can help relieve the strain exerted on the lumbar spine. Being in good shape and having an exercise program in place may help alleviate the detrimental effect of the collision when it does occur.

Good posture and having more flexibility will help as well. Here are some examples of exercise programs.

1) Put the spine to work on a regular basis.

a. Forward bends and toe touches for flexion

b. Arching back for extension

c. Lateral side to side bending

d. Rotation of trunk in a clockwise and then counterclockwise motion over a fixed pelvis

Try these exercises starting out slowly and gradually working up over time with weights. This will help increase your comfortable range of motion.

  1. Loading and working the spinal muscles. Start with isometrics (w/o weights) and use force and pressure performing each exercise without actually moving. For example, try arching your back against a wall, applying force but not actually performing the exercise.

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Injuries in Motor Vehicle Collisions

Posted Saturday, June 30, 2007 by Ed Harper

When you have been injured through no fault of you own, what signifies a significant injury from an insignificant one?

Certainly, pain is an indicator but a physician is likely to downplay its significance unless it progresses for some time. Also, numbness is important, but by itself does not indicate a truly threatening condition. However, when you have weakness which comes on suddenly and is severe, you must be examined immediately and if related to a spinal injury you may require surgery on an emergent basis.

When one has numbness emanating from the cervical spine and radiates to the index finger and thumb it is noticeable almost immediately. However, when one has numbness stemming from an injury to a nerve in the low back it is much harder to diagnose.

Some important facts about injuries:

When you neck is injured, the occipital muscles that attach along the back of the base of the skull can be strain and spasm. This can cause headaches and pinched nerves causing painful symptoms.

Thoracic Outlet Syndrome Injuries to Scalene muscles can pinch nerves that emerge from the thoracic outlet in the base of the neck. Many of the major nerves, arteries and veins headed to the arm and hand pass through this V or triangle. this is termed Thoracic Outlet Syndrome as compression in this area can lead to hand weakness, clumsiness and numbness, which most commonly affects the little finger and ring finger.

Herniated disks in the spine, cannot be ignored and adjustments to the vertebrae should not be performed.

Vertebra 33 bony segments make up the spine

Cervical 7

Thoracic or Dorsal 12

Lumbar 5

Sacral 5

Coccygeal 4

Vertebral Disc disks of fibrous cartilage enclosing a central mass, the nucleus pulposus. The disks separate the successive vertebrae and provide some cushioning and allow for movement.

Herniations and ruptured disk. The herniation to the disk occurs when the nucleus pulposus pushes out through the annulus, the tough cartilage allowing the disk material to protrude. A herniated disk can cause exquisite pain by pushing on the nerves and nerve roots coming from the spinal canal.

Pain takes on many forms

Somatic a pain that arises in the body, typically associated with injury or trauma

Neuropathic pain that comes from the nerves and may not respond to routine pain medications

Chronic long and drawn out, and the opposite of acute

Medication for pain relief include:

Anti inflammatories also known as NSAIDs Non steroidal anti inflammatories work by counteracting or diminishing inflammation or the effects of irritation

Steroids mediation that mimics a natural body material and reduces inflammation

Compounding utilizing more than one part to produce a more powerful medication

Anesthetics can be local or general. Local: medication that reduces sensation as well as pain. General: medication that tends to produce deep, painless sleep.

Narcotics Opiate medication used for treatment of pain

Motor vehicle collisions are a huge cause of injuries which affect the spine.

Rear end collisions typically cause a flexion and extension injury to ones neck and cervical region.

Improvements in the motor vehicle designs as far as reduction of vehicle damage through roll bars, seat belts and air bags have decreased the risk of death in collisions. However, in certain types of accidents, the laws of physics ensure injuries to people due to the forces exerted on the occupants. The newly designed bumpers which absorb a large majority of the impact, reducing the property damage, however, have done little to reduce the effects on ones body. The plastic bumper shells pop back into place and do not completely absorb the impact due to shock absorption type devices attaching the bumpers to the vehicles. Low property damage estimates reduce the possibility ones vehicle will sustain damage, but person sustains just as much of an injury, if not more severe injuries.

Rear end collisions cause injures as the car is propelled forward suddenly with little if any warning. The body is thrust back in the seat in a split-second of time an the head and neck snap back in a delayed whipping motion. Hence the word whiplash is used to connote the head being whipped forward and back. The neck muscles and ligaments become stretched in a flexion and extension motion. The head weighs approximately the same as a gallon of water and the neck muscles of most people cannot withstand the shearing forces exerted in the 1/10 of second.

The mid-back and low back can sustain injury when there is separation or distance from the seat back as the body is propelled and tossed about within the vehicle.

Front end or head-on impacts impart significantly more force on the occupant in the opposite motion. The force is intense as ones vehicle likely comes to a complete stop. Seat belts and air bags have reduced the likelihood one will go through the windshield or strike the steering wheel. The forces exerted on the spine can cause significant injuries, especially to the less physically strong person.

Air bag injuries can occur due to the explosive mechanism utilized to propel the bag out. The speeds of these air bags can exceed 100 mph and elderly and young people should sit in the back seat. The air bag can cause burns to the face and arms as well as trauma to the chest. Hearing loss and heart problems can also occur from the explosive forces exerted from the air bag.

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Consumer Product Safety Commission add Magnetix to recall list

Posted Saturday, May 19, 2007 by Ed Harper

CPSC finally has acted this in regulating Magnetix, the popular toy, made by Rose Art, is subject to a recall due to continued complaints from consumers. Complaints have ranged from the toy falling apart to even death by young infants who have swallowed magnetic pieces within the toys. Magnets which have been ingested can attaach within the intestines and digestive systems wreaking havoc on the the young children’s bodies.

According to the Chicago Tribune in a recent article to date, at least 27 children have suffered serious intestinal injuries after swallowing loose Magnetix magnets. More than 1,500 complaints have come in regarding magnetic pieces falling out of the toys. CPSC has stated that the following: boxes labeled for ages 6 and older that carry a tiny caution label about the risk of internal injuries from swallowed magnets.

The article points out the problems within the CPSC with shrunken staff and limited authority. Parents need to watch out for the safety of their children as some companies are not acting in their children’s best interests. In short, individuals have suffered and died because of an inability to maintain watch on companies that are only concerned with their bottom line.

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Governor to sign Fair Insurance Bill?

Posted Saturday, May 12, 2007 by Ed Harper

State of Washington Governor Christine Gregoire is posed to sign the Insurance Fair Conduct Act SB 5726. However, insurance representatives plan to meet with Washington State Trial Lawyers (WSTLA) early next week to discuss their differences. Consumer groups hail the bill as progressive and allow consumers more rights in their claims against their own insurance companies.

Insurance associations claim the bill would harm the insurance industry. The insurance lobby claim that monetary damages would be allowed to be increased, it would allow for the payment of costs and attorneys fees to the consumer, and would permit the courts to award triple (treble) damages as a punitive measure.

This bill makes sense. Insurance companies generally take advantage of their policy holders when given the opportunity. In light of companies such as Allstate and Farmers using a computer software program to reduce claims (Colossus) of their own policy holders, this bill should be enacted to protect consumers.

The Washington State Senate approved SB 5276 on a vote of 31 to 18. The Governor was supposed to sign the bill on May 8, 2007. The signing was halted in light of the demand by insurance groups to meet with WSTLA leaders.

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