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Westlake Village Personal Injury Blog

Nerve Discovery Gives Hope to Spinal Cord Injury Patients

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Researchers in Australia have discovered that half of all patients with major spinal cord injuries display surviving sensory nerve connections.

Dr. Sylvia Gustin of Neuroscience Research Australia recorded how 23 people living with severe spinal cord injuries responded to touch detected by advanced magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

The finding, which astonished scientists, showed that many people, who completely lacked feeling in their extremities, were still registering the touch in their brains.

"We found using functional MRI, activity in the brain was detected in 48 percent of patients with clinically complete spinal cord injury," Dr. Gustin said. "This means despite previously believing the communication to the brain had been severed in the injury, the messages are still being received by the brain.

"This is a very exciting breakthrough study," she added.

A Spinal Cord Injury Victim Helping with the Study

James Stanley, 26, had a freak surfing accident seven years ago.

"I pushed up on the board, which caused a hyper-extension in my spine," Stanley said.

"Over a period of about one to two hours, the swelling was quite severe and caused paraplegia. It is very rare."

The injury left him completely paralyzed from the waist down.

Mr. Stanley was eager to participate in the ground breaking Australian study.

"In this study, I had to be put in an MRI scan. Sylvia brushed a plastic fork along my toe to see whether, even though I can't feel it, the brain registered that touch," he said.

He was excited to find out his results.

"They found that when they brushed the fork, it actually registered a connection - it registered the touch," he said.

"It was awesome and amazing to hear because seven years ago, I was told once that you're a complete paraplegic, there are no more avenues we can take to develop your strength or feeling coming back in your legs."

"Hearing that was awesome because with further developed treatment and rehab, there is a possibility of change for me.

Jim Vititoe Named to Super Lawyers List for 10th Year in a Row

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Vititoe Law Group founder Jim Vititoe has been named to the prestigous annual Super Lawyers list for the 10th year in a row.

With more than 40 years of experience, Mr. Vititoe has dedicated his career to helping those who have suffered injuries as a result of someone else's negligence.

Vititoe focuses his practice on personal injury cases that involve motor vehicle accidents, brain injuries, wrongful death, environmental exposure, work-related injuries, catastrophic injuries, medical malpractice and product liability.

Railroad Crossings and Truck Accident Prevention

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Railroad accidents between a truck and a train were once more thrust into the forefront of the media after a train carrying members of the Republican congress struck a semi- truck at a railroad crossing. The crash resulted in the death of one truck occupant, injury to another and minor injuries to several passengers and crew of the train.

In the South Carolina crash it was determined that the truck went around a crossing gate that was in the lowered position. Residents in the area said that the gate often became stuck in the closed position tempting impatient drivers to go around it.

Safety Measures for Railroad Crossings

Railroad crossings are almost always marked by cross buck signs. If there is more than one set of tracks at the crossing the number should be indicated on a sign beneath the cross buck. Cross buck signs often have flashing red lights to warn of an approaching train. Many, especially on heavily traveled roads, have integral crossing gates that close simultaneously.

Truckers must obey several rules when approaching a railroad crossing to avoid tragedy. Disobeying the laws in place for crossing railroad tracks subjects a driver to the loss of his or her CDL for 60 days for the first violation, 120 days for the second violation and no less than one year for a third violation.

New High-Tech Goggles Help Diagnose Suspected Brain Injuries

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A new handheld device, developed by the Texas Biomedical Device Center (TXBDC), shows promise in aiding doctors to diagnose concussions on the sidelines of athletic fields.

The high tech pair of goggles, called Neurotriage, can quickly measure an individuals visual tracking abilities. The baseline test can then be followed up with additional tests, following an impact, to detect a mild brain injury.

Doctors are able to detect impairments in brain function that are likely to result in diminished performance through measuring eye movements, according to the TXBDC website.

Performance metrics such as reaction time, target marking, balance and visual steadiness can be detected in less than two minutes by capturing eye movements. The resulting delayed or imprecise reactions could lead to further injury.

"The brain is a dynamic machine that changes after injuries so you may not see the symptoms of a concussion for minutes, hours or days after the event," said Dr. Rob Rennaker, Professor and Department Head for Bioengineering at University of Texas Biomedical Device Center. "But what we can do is detect very small changes in how the brain processes information, how the eyes move, and if we can build a system that allows us to quantify that, we can see those changes."

Distracted Driving Among School Bus Drivers

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School Bus Drivers Risk More Distractions Than All Other Drivers

School bus drivers are trusted with the important responsibility of safely transporting students to and from school, as well as school related events such as interscholastic sports. One of the worst tragedies that can occur for students, their families and friends as well as the school, is a transportation accident. Along with the human cost are staggering financial costs as well. Bus accidents account for 16 percent of the total number of public school claims, resulting in excess of $7 million in losses, according to a United Education (UE) study.

School bus accidents are often the result of other drivers, especially those that are distracted. However, the drivers of school buses are also often distracted. Public school administrators can lower the risk of distracted driving accidents though better understanding of the many types of distractions school bus drivers can face and implementing strategies to address those risks.

Preventing Distracted Driving by School Bus Drivers

In addition to prohibiting phone use and eating or drinking while driving, school districts need to train drivers to stay alert, learn their routes thoroughly to limit GPS dependency, and avoid interaction with passengers. They must also train drivers to avoid reaching for a dropped object without first pulling off the road and stopping in a safe area.

Student conduct on a bus can pose a significant risk for driver distraction. Many established discipline policies are in place to control student behavior but some students often ignore these policies. When a misbehaving student diverts a driver's attention, the lives of all the students are in jeopardy. School bus drivers cannot be expected to double as monitors. Parents and school administrators must take responsibility in teaching children the importance of being well behaved as a passenger.

Scaffolding Collapse Bring $50 Million Lawsuit

A Brooklyn woman injured in the construction accident in SoHo is suing the contractors and building owner

A former model that was partially trapped beneath collapsed scaffolding in SoHo, NY has filed a $50 million lawsuit against multiple parties.

Katherine Lefavre, 33, of Brooklyn, claims she suffered multiple injuries when heavy wind gusts caused scaffolding and other debris to collapse. The Nov. 19 construction accident happened near the intersection of Broadway and Prince Street in SoHo. The lawsuit filed by Lefavre on Dec. 19 is seeking to recover $50 million against various contractors connected to the scaffolding at 568 Broadway.

The lawsuit says that Lefavre was walking near the corner of Broadway and Prince Street on Nov. 19 when a heavy gust of wind toppled a sidewalk shed and some of the connected scaffolding. Lefavre was struck by the debris and knocked to the ground "where she became trapped and buried under the debris,'' according to her lawsuit.

As a result of the construction accident, Lefavre suffered multiple injuries, including spinal fractures, head trauma and cuts, as well as injuries to her legs, the suit claims. She asserts her injuries required an extended hospital stay and surgery.

City inspectors, following the partial collapse of the scaffolding, citing that the structure "did not meet building safety code standards", issued a stop work order. A second inspection conducted in December allowed work on the site to move forward after the scaffolding was determined to be safe.

In an interview with the New York Post, the first to report on the story, Lefavre's attorney Susan Karten said, "New Yorkers are constantly walking under scaffolding, and they are entitled to feel safe when they do."

The owner of the building at 568 Broadway, the scaffolding provider, Rocker Group and the company handling the renovation, are all named as defendants in the lawsuit.

Spinal Cord Injury - Diagnosis and Treatment

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The spinal cord is a bundle of nervous tissue and support cells that extends from the brain to the lumbar region of the spinal column. There are 31 pairs of nerves that extend from the spinal cord and lead to the arms, legs, chest and abdomen. Signals from the brain use these nerves to command muscles and cause movements of the arms and legs. The nerves from the upper portion of the spinal cord control the arms while those from the lower portion control the legs. The nerves also control heart rate, breathing rate, bowel and bladder function.

Other nerves travel back through the arms and legs to the spinal cord relaying information about the senses of touch, pain, temperature and position. The spinal cord is located within the spinal canal, which is surrounded by bones known as vertebrae. These vertebrae help protect against spinal cord injury.

What is a Spinal Cord Injury?

The spinal cord, unlike other parts of the body does not have the ability to repair itself if damaged and is very prone to injury. The most common cause of damage to the spinal cord is trauma but loss of normal blood supply or compression from tumor or infection is another cause. There are approximately 12,000 new cases of spinal cord injury in the U.S. each year. The most common cause of spinal cord injury is auto accidents, followed by falls from heights, violence and sports related injuries. The most common victims are white males.

Liability in an Overloaded Truck Accident

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Be it out of indifference or ignorance, trucking companies may push beyond the legal limits when loading their trucks, creating the possibility for catastrophe on the highway. The risk to motorists from overloaded trucks exists at anytime and anyplace in the U.S. Overloading a truck increases its stopping distance, adversely effects maneuverability and stability. An overloaded truck can also fail structurally leading to disastrous consequences.

The Aftermath for Southern California Wildfire Victims

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The Thomas wildfire, which broke out on Dec. 4, consumed over over 281,000 acres in Ventura and Santa Barbara, destroyed an estimated 1,063 structures and took the life of one fire fighter and a civilian. 200,000 residents were forced to evacuate.

Tragically, after evacuees returned to their homes, rains deluged the area causing mud and rockslides in the fire-ravaged hills which destroyed more homes, carrying away vehicles, and literally closing the 101 freeway. At the time of this article, at least 20 people were killed while several others are still missing. The loss of trees and other vegetation from the fire left nothing to prevent the torrents of mud and boulders from washing down the hillsides burying everything in their path.

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California Wildfire Investigations Spark New Utility Regulations

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In the years preceding 1995, the entire country averaged only one "mega-fire" per year. The U.S. Fire Service that reported the information applies the term to fires that consume over 100,000 acres. California wildfires alone have met that that annual average over the past ten years. As a whole, the United States is now averaging ten times the pre-1995 amount; a statistic predicted by researchers to double by the middle of this century.

Lightning was once the most common cause of wildfires but with more people on the landscape today, most of the fires are started by humans or their equipment. The search for causes of the most recent California wildfires has had investigators to looking at downed high-voltage power lines in at least two of the fires. A witness in Little Tujunga Canyon reported seeing a snapped line whipping on a transmission tower and sending sparks onto the dry brush below.

That witness immediately fled her home driving through what was the beginning of the Creek fire, which burned more than 60 homes above Sylmar. It was one of five fires to devastate the Southern California landscape last week, destroying over 1000 structures and forcing hundreds of thousands of residents to evacuate.

The Thomas fire in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties has burned nearly 250,000 acres and become the fourth-largest fire ever recorded in California. A firefighter lost his life in that blaze. As horrific that wildfire was, the future for more fires of even greater magnitude is terrifying.

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