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What You Need to Know about Traumatic Brain Injuries

Posted on Wednesday, September 11, 2013
Auto Accident Injuries, Blog

A person suffering from a traumatic brain injury (TBI) can walk away from an auto accident with no symptoms, only to have their condition worsen hours, days or even weeks later. In fact, TBI’s can even occur without the victim losing consciousness. If damage occurs directly under the site of impact, it is called a coup injury. Brain injuries that occur opposite the impact are referred to as contrecoup injuries.

Both focal and diffuse brain injuries can cause cerebral contusions (brain bruising) or, more rarely, the formation of an epidural hematoma in the most severe cases. Injuries can range from a momentary loss of consciousness to extended periods of amnesia. The victim’s head doesn’t even need to be impacted for these injuries to occur. Whiplash can cause rapid acceleration and deceleration that slams the brain back and forth inside of the skull.

What to watch for: Common TBI symptoms

Often, a person with a TBI will look perfectly normal. If someone you know was recently in an auto accident where head trauma is a possibility, observe them vigilantly. Look for any changes in mood and behavior, even if they seem minor. Look out for any of the common symptoms listed below.

  • Chronic headaches
  • Changes in mood or sleep patterns
  • Any changes in sensory function: blurred vision, loss of smell or taste, ringing in the ears
  • Nausea
  • Vertigo
  • Exhaustion
  • Difficulty concentrating, getting confused easily
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Slowed reactions, both physical and mental
  • Memory problems

Diagnosis & Treatment

As with all head injuries, the most important step is to seek treatment as soon as possible. If you go the hospital after your auto accident, make sure your doctor isn’t just focusing on your physical injuries. Usually, a doctor will order imaging tests like X-rays (to rule out any skull or neck fractures), MRIs or CT scans to look for signs of internal bleeding, bruising or increased pressure within the skull. It’s important to remember that mild TBI’s usually present such minor physical signs that they’re hard to pick up on conventional imaging tests. As a result, some patients might be sent home under the false pretense that nothing is wrong. While many mild TBI’s will resolve themselves, it’s still in an accident victim’s best interest keep an eye on any behavioral changes and discuss ALL symptoms, no matter how mild, with one’s doctor.

If you or a family member has been involved in an auto accident, don’t assume that a lack of physical symptoms automatically means that nothing is wrong. Get treatment immediately and be proactive about your health by monitoring any changes in your condition. And as always, contact an experienced attorney if you are planning to seek monetary compensation for any damages or injuries sustained in an auto accident.

What You Need to Know About Independent Medical Exams

Posted on Tuesday, September 3, 2013
Blog, Personal Injury

Although all Florida employers are required to carry worker’s compensation insurance, gaining full access to the benefits that you are entitled to can still be an arduous process. Part of that process is the Independent Medical Exam, more commonly known as an IME. After filing a claim, you will be asked to submit to a physical examination by a doctor who has been approved by your employer’s insurance company. An IME doctor will not treat you for your injuries. His only role is to verify whether your injury is work-related, determine its severity and recommend a treatment plan.

More often than not, the IME’s opinion will, perhaps unsurprisingly, favor the insurance company. And if you disagree with that doctor’s findings, you only have one opportunity to seek a second opinion. The opportunities to make sure your condition is accurately diagnosed are limited. Here are some tips to make sure you get an accurate, favorable result from your IME.

  • Prepare beforehand. Write down the entire history of your injury. If your condition has developed over time, when did you first start experiencing symptoms? What aggravates your injuries? What treatment have you already received? Afterwards, your attorney can compare your statement to the IME’s diagnosis.
  • Provide the doctor with a thorough history of symptoms and medical treatments that you have already received for your condition
  • Don’t go into your appointment with a poor attitude. Be polite and on time. Remember that you are going to be under constant observation by the Independent Medical Examiner, so behave accordingly.
  • Bring an advocate who can thoroughly document your exam. Since this evident might be used in court, it’s especially important to document the IME’s findings so that your attorney can be prepared should a disagreement arise. Your attorney will want to know exactly what the IME said in order to best prepare your case.
  • The following advice is applicable in almost any legal situation: Do not sign anything without your attorney’s permission! Also, do not discuss any aspects of your case.
  • Describe the severity of your injuries as accurately as possible. Most IME’s can easily spot a patient who is exaggerating his/her injuries. Any indications of dishonesty could be damaging to your case. At the same time, be vocal if you are experiencing any pain during the examination.
  • If you did not have an advocate to take notes during your appointment, spend some time at home writing down exactly what the IME said. This will also be helpful to your attorney.

The Independent Medical Exam isn’t necessarily something to be afraid of, but you should walk in knowing what to expect and how to best represent yourself. And as always, contact an experienced attorney if you have any further questions.

Learn the Basics for Filing for Social Security Mental Disability

Posted on Tuesday, August 27, 2013
Blog, Social Security Disability

Whether it’s a stand-alone condition or the secondary consequence of a physical injury, mental health issues can also qualify you for Social Security Disability. If you are unable to work because of a mental health condition and have demonstrable, chronic symptoms, you may be able to file an application. Although mental health issues are no less debilitating, they are often more difficult to prove. It’s important to realize that most claim examiners do not have a mental health background and therefore may not fully grasp the obstacles imposed by your illness. Your best course of action is to be prepared and find a qualified ssdi attorney or advocate to help you navigate this difficult process.

What are the eligibility requirements?

  • You need to show that the mental disorder (or medication necessary to treat that disorder) severely prevents normal day-to-day functioning to the extent that finding and keeping gainful employment is impossible. According to Social Security Administration (SSA) definitions, a disability of any kind must prevent you from working for a period of at least 12 months. However, there is an exception for cyclical illnesses such as bipolar disorder. In those cases, you will need to document suffering at least three episodes per year lasting at least two weeks each.
  • You must be able to prove that you’ve tried to find work in the past, either by yourself or through a community mental health program. While the SSA has no “minimum” number of required employment attempts, you still have a greater chance of receiving benefits if you’ve been consistently incapable of holding a job.
  • You must be able to provide thorough documentation of your medical history for at least 12 months prior your file date, including a clear diagnosis from your psychiatrist or psychologist. Treatment notes from your psychiatrist or psychologist are often the most important source of evidence. If your provider has not taken detailed notes, they can also be the most troublesome. Your treatment notes should include your symptoms and diagnosis, treatment plan, prognosis and the history of your treatment, including the medications you’ve been prescribed and how you’ve responded to them. In an ideal world, these notes will also contain specific examples of how your functioning is impaired by your illness. When these necessary details are not included in your notes, it’s helpful to ask your doctor to fill out a Residual Functioning Capacity (RFC) Form, which specifically lists the tasks you can and cannot perform.

The typical SSDI application takes between 3-6 months to process, and about ⅔ of applicants are denied after their first attempt. If you are denied, you have a 60-day window to appeal your case. Although the appeal process can be daunting, having an experienced attorney that knows Social Security Disability law can be an incredible asset in helping you get the benefits you need.

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