whiplash injury

Whiplash – How it Happens and How to Care for It

Whiplash is one of the most common types of car accident injuries. Millions of whiplash injuries happen in the U.S. each year, and as many as 30-50% of those injured will struggle with chronic pain for the rest of their lives. If you or someone you love has suffered a neck injury, it’s vital that you understand how whiplash happens and what you can expect as you recover from this devastating event.

How Whiplash Happens

Most whiplash injuries occur when a person is rear-ended in an auto accident, but they can also happen with sports injuries and dangerous slips and falls. The most common sequence of a car crash whiplash injury is as follows:

  • Your car is struck from behind. The driver and passenger seats in your vehicle get forcefully pushed against the spinal column, which forces the spinal column up into the cervical spine.
  • Your torso moves forward while your spine remains stationary. As the body’s torso is pushed away from the car seat towards the front of the vehicle, the head remains in place. The creates an unnatural s-curve in the cervical spine, which can compress joints, discs, and other parts of the neck.
  • Your head hits the seat. As the torso moves in a forward motion, the head accelerates violently back into the seat. This can lead to additional soft tissue injuries in the neck.
  • The head bounces off of the seat. There is a secondary bounce as the head is thrust forward violently. The seatbelt, while a lifesaving device, can add to the injury as it holds the torso in place while the head whips forward, causing whiplash.

The Symptoms of Whiplash

A common misconception about whiplash injuries is that they only result from high-speed crashes. This isn’t the case. Even a low-speed rear-end collision can cause a life-altering whiplash injury to the driver and their passengers. While your car might be designed to sustain certain impact forces, the human body is not. Symptoms of whiplash can vary, but the most common signs of whiplash include:

  • Neck and upper back pain
  • Spasms and tightness in the neck and upper back muscles
  • Headache, dizziness, and pain with neck movement
  • Shoulder pain
  • Difficulty swallowing or chewing
  • Burning, tingling, or other abnormal sensations in the neck
  • Concentration and memory problems

These symptoms, including neck pain, could begin immediately after the accident or may not start for days or weeks later. The adrenaline released during a traumatic accident can leave victims believing that they are unharmed when the reality is something different.

Diagnosing and Treating Whiplash

Whether you are unsure about a whiplash injury or just have mild neck pain, you should be examined by a physician as soon as possible. Tests such as X-rays, an MRI, or CT scan may be done to rule out fractures, ligament injury, and herniated discs.

Most whiplash injuries are conservatively treated with a combination of rest, medication, physical therapy, and chiropractic manipulation. More severe cases of whiplash may require additional treatment that includes trigger point injections and even an evaluation with a spinal surgeon.

How Whiplash Can Impact Your Life

The Journal of Chiropractic Medicine reports that whiplash injuries alone cost about $2.7 billion each year. What this enormous figure doesn’t illustrate clearly enough is the personal cost to whiplash victims and their families.

With the right treatment, about half of the people who suffer from whiplash can fully recover in just a few weeks or months. Others may require additional medical care and time away from work. In some cases, there is permanent damage, a need for surgery, and a significant impact on quality of life. If your whiplash injury was the fault of another party, seeking fair compensation for your losses is important.

Get Help With a Whiplash Personal Injury Claim

If you or a loved one are suffering from a whiplash injury resulting from a car accident or other incident, you have the right to seek fair compensation if another party was responsible for your injuries. The experienced personal injury attorneys at McPhillips Shinbaum, LLP will offer a free evaluation of your case and will clearly explain your legal options. Contact our Montgomery, Alabama office now at 334.262.1911 or online to schedule a consultation.

sue an airline for in-flight injuries

Can I Sue an Airline for In-Flight Injuries?

Traveling by air is one of the most common ways to get around these days. In fact, according to Air & Space Magazinethere were 3.5 billion airline passengers in 2015, a number that was predicted to increase to 3.8 billion by 2017. What’s more, only 18 percent of Americans report never having flown in their life, which means that 82 percent likely have flown.

While air travel certainly makes things more convenient, and is becoming a more popular option with cheaper flights and budget airlines popping up both domestically and abroad, it’s important to remember that even when planes land safely, passengers can suffer in-flight injuries.

Common In-Flight Injuries

There are multiple opportunities for an injury to occur throughout the duration of the flight. Some of the most common accident and injury types include:

  • Rolling cart injuries (when the cart carrying drinks and snacks strikes a passenger);
  • Falling luggage injuries;
  • Spilled hot beverage injuries;
  • Slip and fall injuries; and
  • Turbulence-related injuries.

While many of these injuries are minor, leaving a person with insignificant bumps and bruises that are quickly forgotten about, the injuries can be serious. Indeed, a piece of luggage falling on a person’s head could cause a head or brain injury, spilled hot liquid could lead to serious burns, and other accident types may lead to back or neck injuries, fractures, and sprains and strains. Further, the above list is not inclusive.

Who’s Liable for an In-Flight Injury?

If you have been injured while on a flight, you may be able to bring forth a claim against the airline in order to recover compensation for the value of your injuries. In order to do this, here are a few things to keep in mind–

  • Airlines are common carriers. The first thing to note is that airlines arecommon carriers, which means that they have a heightened duty of care to those they serve. This may mean that providing negligence is easier to do, as the ordinary standard of care does not apply.
  • Airlines cannot be held liable for unforeseeable and unpreventable events. When certain events occurs that an airline cannot predict, they cannot be held liable for damages that result. For example, turbulence on a airplane are not always avoidable. If a plane was experiencing turbulence, and a passenger who was advised to stay buckled in their seat went to the bathroom and fell along the way, the airline is not liable for the resulting damages.
  • You’ll have to prove negligence. Like with allpersonal injury claims, in order to hold an airline liable for harm, you’ll need to prove that the airline neglected the duty of care owed to you. For example, if the plane was experiencing turbulence, but the pilot or airline attendants failed to let passengers know they should remain in their seat and an injury resulted as such, it could be argued that the airline neglected their duty of care. Failing to properly secure luggage is another example of negligence.
  • Rules may be different for international flights. If you were harmed on an international flight, you should meet with an attorney immediately, as where the flight originated and landed may determine jurisdiction for your case. Further, your damages amount could be limited.

 Contact Our Experienced Personal Injury Lawyers Today

Being injured on a flight can be a very uncomfortable and scary experience, and sometimes the injury may be serious enough that you need to bring forth a legal claim in order to recover compensation for your losses.

Before you file your suit, though, you should consult with an experienced Montgomery personal injury attorney who has represented clients involved in suits against airlines in the past. At the law offices of McPhillips Shinbaum, LLP, our personal injury attorneys are prepared to advocate for you. To learn more about our legal services and how to hold an airline liable for injuries, please call us at 334-262-1911 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.

Who Pays my Medical Bills if I'm in a Car Accident in Alabama - McPhillips Shinbaum

Who Pays My Medical Bills if I Was Injured in a Car Accident in Alabama?

In the aftermath of a serious car accident in Alabama, victims often find themselves facing mounting medical bills as they recover from any injuries they may have sustained. Even a minor accident that led to cuts, scrapes, or soft tissue injuries can require professional medical treatment with an astronomically high cost.

Of course, it is only natural to wonder who will be responsible for paying for these medical bills, especially if the accident was caused by another driver. In this case, it is in the best interests of all crash victims to learn about Alabama’s car insurance laws to better understand liability for personal injury damages, and to reach out to an Alabama personal injury attorney immediately for help throughout the claims process.

Car Insurance Laws in Alabama

Ultimately, crash victims should understand the basics of Alabama insurance laws before moving forward. To begin, Alabama law requires all drivers to purchase an insurance policy that meets the following minimum requirements:

  • $25,000 for destruction or damage to property;
  • $25,000 for bodily injury or death of one person; and
  • $50,000 for bodily injury or death of two people.

This means that the insurance policy will pay out up to the listed amounts for the associated damages. The failure to maintain these insurance policy minimums can result in a fine, as well as a driver’s license suspension.

In addition, victims should also note that Alabama follows a fault-based system, also known as a “tort” system. This means that all drivers (or their insurance companies) are responsible for paying for damages that they cause.

Ultimately, in the aftermath of a crash, victims have three options for recovering damages to pay for medical bills, which are listed below:

  1. File an insurance claim with their own insurance carrier;
  2. File an insurance claim with the carrier of the other driver or drivers; or
  3. File a personal injury lawsuit against the negligent driver.

Often, filing a claim with one of the insurance carriers will be sufficient to cover the costs associated with the victim’s medical bills. In the event that the costs for the victim’s medical treatment exceed the policy’s coverage, they will need to file a personal injury lawsuit, a task that is best attempted with the help of a skilled Alabama accident injury attorney.

Beware of Contributory Negligence Laws in Alabama

 After developing a basic sense of the insurance laws in Alabama, some victims choose to file a claim on their own in hopes of obtaining a settlement. However, this is not advisable, because most people are unfamiliar with the concept of contributory negligence.

Specifically, Alabama, along with only a small handful of other states, follows a system of contributory negligence, which ultimately means that a victim will be barred from recovering any amount of compensation for their damages if it can be shown that they were at all responsible for the crash. For example, if a victim was struck by a speeding driver, but the victim was shown to be acting negligently at the time (by texting, for example), they would be unable to obtain damages to pay for their medical bills.

It is for this reason, among others, that victims should reach out to an attorney immediately after a crash. Indeed, an experienced Alabama personal injury lawyer will have a thorough understanding of Alabama law and will ensure that a crash victim remains eligible to recover the compensation they deserve.

Have You Been Injured in an Alabama Crash?

 If you have sustained injuries in a car accident in Montgomery or the surrounding areas, we invite you to contact us today at McPhillips Shinbaum, LLP. Our skilled Alabama personal injury attorneys have significant experience assisting clients throughout the insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit process, and we are prepared to begin working on your behalf immediately to help you obtain the damages to which you are rightfully entitled. Don’t hesitate to call us at your earliest convenience at (334) 262-1911 or contact us online.

 

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Three-Car Crash in Montgomery County Takes One Life, Leaves Others Injured

A three-car crash occurred Saturday night, January 31st, on Peppers Ferry Road near Rolling Hills Drive in Montgomery County. The road was closed for several hours as emergency responders and law enforcement worked the accident. The accident occurred when a driver crossed the center line and struck another vehicle head-on. The driver of that vehicle was pronounced dead at the scene, and his two passengers were transported to the hospital with minor injuries. A third vehicle was also involved, but no injuries were reported for the occupants of that vehicle.

The driver who crossed the center line has been charged with driving under the influence of drugs. Drunk driving and drugged driving are not only dangerous and illegal, but they may subject the driver to liability for any personal injury or wrongful death which resulted. When a violation of the law has led to an injury, the injured plaintiff may be able to demonstrate that the defendant was negligent per se, or negligent as a matter of law, without having to provide other evidence of the defendant’s negligence. The central question on this issue is whether the statute which was violated was one that was enacted to prevent the type of harm which occurred. Most traffic laws fall into this category, and a law against driving under the influence certainly has a primary purpose of preventing tragedies such as this one.

The doctrine of negligence per se has been upheld many times by the Alabama courts, including this restatement of the law in Proctor v. Classic Auto., Inc. from the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals in 2009:

“Violation of statutes or ordinances may be negligence. If the statute or ordinance violated was enacted or promulgated for the protection of the person claiming to have been injured by reason of the violation, the violation of the statute may be negligence per se or negligence as a matter of law.”

It is important to always drive with care and to drive defensively with regard to others who may be on the road, but as this tragedy demonstrates, sometimes all the care in the world cannot keep you safe from another person who chooses to drive with negligence or reckless disregard for the safety of others. If you or a loved one have been injured in an Alabama car accident, contact the attorneys at McPhillips Shinbaum for a free consultation about receiving the compensation you need and deserve to recover from the harm done to you.

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Bar Owners Can Be Liable for Injuries Caused by Drunk Patrons

Every year hundreds of persons are killed by drunk drivers in Alabama, and thousands more are injured. You probably know that driving while intoxicated or impaired is very likely evidence of negligence, and the driver may be liable for damages in a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit. But did you know that the bar or restaurant which served the drunk driver may also be liable too?

Under section 6-5-71 of the Alabama Code, known as the Dram Shop Act, any person who sells or gives alcohol to another person contrary to law may be liable for any damages caused by the intoxicated individual. The law allows the injured person to sue for damages such as medical expenses and pain and suffering, and the family of the injured person can sue as well for damages such as loss of support or companionship.

What does it mean to sell or give alcohol to someone “contrary to law?” For one, sale of alcohol to minors is prohibited by Alabama Code 6-5-70. Also, any violation of the Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Board, such as serving alcohol in a dry country, would also be “contrary to law.” Notably ABC Board Regulation 20-X-6-.02(4) prohibits serving alcohol to any person who appears to be intoxicated.

This last provision is likely the one most cited for dram shop liability in Alabama. It is certainly foreseeable that an overly intoxicated person might assault another person without provocation or cause a serious car accident if drinking and driving. In cases such as these, the bar, restaurant or liquor store which furnished the alcohol to a visibly intoxicated person can be held strictly liable for the damages which ensue.

In addition to compensatory damages, such as medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering, the bar could be liable for exemplary or punitive damages as well.

The attorneys at McPhillips Shinbaum thoroughly investigate every case and work to hold every responsible party accountable for their negligence or misconduct. This includes restaurants, bars and retail establishments which furnish alcohol to minors or visibly intoxicated persons with disastrous results. If you or a loved one were harmed in such a situation, call on the experienced Alabama personal injury and wrongful death lawyers at McPhillips Shinbaum for a free consultation.

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Who Is At Fault in a High-Speed Chase?

On July 30, 2013, a high-speed police chase through Birmingham and suburban Homewood resulted in two collisions and three injuries.

Police state that they spotted a man with outstanding arrest warrants driving in Birmingham’s south side shortly before 6:00 p.m. The chase ended when the suspect’s vehicle crashed into another car near the corner of Roxbury and Oxmoor in Homewood. Another crash occurred previously on 18th Street. The fleeing suspect, his passenger (who also had an outstanding arrest warrant) and another driver were all rushed to area hospitals.

One witness remarked that she was “surprised” that more people weren’t hurt, given that the events occurred in a busy downtown area during rush hour. An Alabama car accident lawyer may become involved due to the serious injuries suffered by at least one and arguably two innocent bystanders.

Negligence in a high-speed chase

Accidents in high-speed chases are a serious problem. The FBI reports that one person dies every day in a high-speed chase. While peace officers are granted some leeway in their pursuit of some suspects, Alabama law does set limits on their behavior. These officers — and the city, county or state that employs them — may be liable for damages caused in a high-speed chase. Damages may include property damage and compensation for injury or death.

  • Officers are held to a simple negligence standard in Alabama. Even if they are in a high-speed emergency chase, they have a duty of reasonable care to other innocent third parties.
  • Despite a minority of states that impose liability in such situations, an injured suspect cannot sue for damages in Alabama because the suspect could have pulled over at any time and ended the chase.

The experienced and tough attorneys at McPhillips Shinbaum are not intimidated by a government agency, insurance company or anyone else that is standing between you and fair compensation for your injuries. Call today for your free consultation.

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Explosive Plane Crash Kills Two

On Wednesday, August 14, 2013, a UPS cargo plane crashed near Birmingham. The crash killed all on board.

Police state that the aircraft was approaching Birmingham-Shuttlesworth Airport on a flight from Lexington, Kentucky. The plane suddenly exploded in mid-air and fell from the sky. The tower reports that the crew made no distress calls. Witnesses stated that the aircraft split into several pieces before crashing to the ground, skidding across a highway and spreading debris over a half-mile area.

Both the pilot and co-pilot were killed. Their bodies were found some 100 yards from the main portion of the plane. The aircraft type, a twin-engine Airbus A 300, has been involved in at least 10 other crashes since it first entered service in 1974.

The National Transportation Safety Board is currently investigating the cause of the accident. Speculation exists that, due to the sudden nature of the crash, the lack of distress calls and the A 300’s service record, mechanical error may have been at fault.

Liability for wrongful death

Any time a manufacturer sells a defective product that results in death, whether that product is a small medical device or a wide-body jet aircraft, the manufacturer can be sued for wrongful death. Since 1974, Alabama has used the AEMLD, or Alabama Extended Manufacturers’ Liability Doctrine, in such cases. In a defective product case, a Birmingham personal injury attorney must convince the jury that the death occurred because of:

  • A design defect the typical argument is that there was a safer alternative design available, but the defendant failed to use that alternative design
  • A manufacturing defect  the product may have been fine on the blueprint, but was defective by the time it reached the shelf
  • A failure to warn – if the manufacturer knows that a product is dangerous, the manufacturer has a duty to warn consumers about the danger

Since 1978, McPhillips Shinbaum has represented injured victims and their families in personal injury lawsuits throughout Alabama. Call today for your free consultation.

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Wrongful Death and Criminal Acts

A former provost at the University of Alabama in Huntsville has asked a judge to throw out the wrongful death suit filed against him following Amy Bishop’s 2010 shooting rampage.

Bishop, a professor at UAH, shot two people to death and injured three others following a faculty meeting. Bishop was angry that she was earlier denied tenure. She is currently serving a life sentence without parole after pleading guilty to the shooting deaths. The family members of slain faculty members Maria Davis and Adriel Johnson subsequently sued UAH Provost Dr. Vistap Karbhari and President Dr. David Williams, alleging that these university officials knew that Bishop was angry and unstable, and failed to take any corrective action.

Elements of a wrongful death suit

Dr. Karbhari’s attorneys argue that Dr. Karbhari did not cause the deaths of the faculty members. Cause, both cause-in-fact and proximate cause, is an essential element in any negligence case. There can be no intervening cause that comes between the plaintiff’s injuries and the defendant’s conduct. A criminal act, especially one that is random and unpredictable, is generally an intervening cause in a negligence case. Alabama law holds that a criminal act may not always be an intervening cause in all cases.

  • Relationship between the parties: If there is a special relationship between the parties, such as lawyer/client, doctor/patient or some other fiduciary relationship where there is a heightened duty of care, a crime is not an intervening cause in a negligence case.
  • Foreseeability: In this case, the plaintiffs argue that Dr. Karbhari ignored warning signs that Bishop was dangerous. Dr. Kharbari denies these allegations.
  • Voluntary duty: If a defendant begins to take steps to protect a plaintiff from a crime, and then abandons that course of action, the defendant may nevertheless be liable.

At McPhillips Shinbaum, our attorneys represent clients in Montgomery County, Autauga County, Elmore County and throughout Alabama. To speak with a lawyer about your wrongful death claim, contact us to schedule your free initial consultation.

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NFL Concussion Lawsuit Settlement

The National Football League (NFL) has reached a multimillion-dollar settlement with current and former players regarding brain damage suffered by players, allegedly while competing on the football field.

The total value of the settlement is $765 million. Settlement terms include $675 million in compensation to former players and their survivors, and $90 million for further research into chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), the brain disorder players say they contracted as a result of multiple violent collisions while playing professional football. The players also state the NFL failed to take sufficient action to protect players from CTE.

While the settlement amount may seem rather small, given the number of plaintiffs (4,500) and the NFL’s revenue ($10 billion per year), the case highlights a few common elements in any settlement strategy in any negligence action.

There are many times that a trial is desirable or necessary. The parties may be too far apart on a settlement figure, the plaintiffs may want the publicity that a trial brings, the parties may want an enforceable court order, and there are other reasons. However, just because your attorney tries to work out a settlement does not mean that he or she is caving into the other side’s demands or that your case lacks merit. For the most part, an agreed settlement is a better option:

  • Control. Liability is hardly ever clear-cut in complicated negligence cases, and there is absolutely no way to predict how a jury will view the facts and make its decision. A pretrial settlement gives the parties control over the outcome that they simply do not have in a trial.
  • Cost. Trials cost a lot of money, both in terms of an attorney’s time and in terms of hard costs, such as expert witness fees and deposition expenses. A plaintiff can accept less money at a pretrial settlement and actually come out ahead because the former costs are avoided.
  • Speed. If a case is litigated, it can be years or even a decade before a victorious plaintiff sees any money. The NFL players’ attorneys specifically said that one of their goals was to get money right away for the retirees and families who badly needed it.

The attorneys at McPhillips Shinbaum are experienced in all phases of a negligence case. They know when to push for a settlement and when a trial is a better option. You can trust them to make the decision that best promotes your interests. Contact McPhillips Shinbaum to schedule your free consultation.

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Three Shades of Cause

A previous post discussed the legal duty that one person owes another person. Once it is established that the plaintiff owed you a duty, the next step in your negligence case is to link that duty to your damages. While duty is largely a legal question — for the most part, the law determines who is an “employee” and who is an “independent contractor” and so on — causation is nearly always a fact question.

Breach

Simply stated, defendants breach their duty when they fail to do what they are supposed to do. If a driver runs a stop sign or fails to yield the right of way, that is a breach of the duty of care. If a pharmaceutical company fails to warn patients about a known drug risk, that is a breach of the company’s duty of care.

Cause in fact

Often, a defendant argues that the breach of duty did not cause the plaintiff’s damage. A driver may admit hitting another vehicle, but argue that the victim’s leg injury was a preexisting sports injury that was not caused by the collision.

Proximate cause

Proximate cause is a difficult concept, and perhaps best explained by a 100-year-old court case. “Poor Mrs. Palsgraf” was waiting for a train in Long Island with her two daughters. As the train left, two railroad porters tried to help a man onto the train. As the porters jostled the passenger, the passenger dropped a package of fireworks. The fireworks exploded, and Mrs. Palsgraf suffered a “nervous disorder.” When Mrs. Palsgraf sued the railroad company, the court determined that the porters did not proximately cause Mrs. Palsgraf’s injury. Other intervening causes may include a criminal act or a third driver in a multi-car pile-up.

Anytime you are injured in an accident, whether you are on a railroad platform or anywhere else, speak to an attorney right away. A lawyer can help you get in to see a doctor and help you preserve any legal rights you may have. Contact McPhillips Shinbaum today for your free consultation.