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Maine Car Accident Attorney: What To Do After A Car Accident

Rear end car crash

auto crashUnless you’re a demolition derby driver, no one leaves the house in the morning expecting to be involved in a car accident.  Automobile accidents are scary, costly and often involve time away from work and family dealing with automobile repairs, liability issues, and insurance claims. In the worst case scenarios, automobile accidents can lead to serious injuries and disabilities, including traumatic brain injuries, painful long-term disabilities, and even death.

Unfortunately, if you are a driver, it’s extremely likely that you’ll be involved in at least one automobile accident in your lifetime. Statistics suggest that the average driver will have three to four accidents during their driving years, and file a claim after a collision once every 18 years. Not exactly reassuring! No matter how carefully you drive or how safe your vehicle is, you won’t be able to prevent the careless actions of other drivers or predict hazardous road conditions that can cause a car accident.  Some of the most common causes of car accidents are distracted driving, driving too fast, drivers who do not follow right-of-way rules, drivers who ignore traffic signals and stop signs or who drive on the wrong side of the road.

Our Maine attorneys know that car accidents are an unfortunate and dangerous fact of life.  We also believe that when it comes to car accidents, to be forewarned is to forearmed.  You should know exactly how to handle yourself should an accident occur, especially if there is a personal injury involved.  Here are some tips from our experienced Maine car accident attorneys on what you should and should not do following an automobile accident.

What To Do After A Car Accident-STOP

First and foremost, although you may feel rattled, scared or even angry after a car accident, the very first thing you should do after a car accident is STOP. Breathe, calm down as best you can and assess your condition. Make sure everyone at the scene is safe. Call 911 if there are serious injuries or if you or anyone else requires immediate medical attention. Move to a safe place while you wait for the police to arrive so that you don’t risk further injury from other motorists.

Remember, whether your accident was a minor fender bender or a major collision involving serious injuries, you must pull over and exchange information with the parties involved. According to Maine law, if you are involved in a car accident that involves a personal injury, or if there was damage to the vehicles or property exceeding $1,000, you must contact police to file a report. If there is any doubt about the amount of damage incurred in a car accident, it’s always a good idea to call the police.  If your accident involved personal injuries, it’s also a good idea to contact a Maine car accident attorney who can help you deal with your insurance company and ensure that you’ll receive fair compensation for your injuries.

What To Do After A Car Accident- Stay Safe and Call for Help

Remember; never leave the scene of an accident, even if you think the accident was minor or no one was injured. If you or someone in another vehicle has been seriously injured, call 911. If you don’t suspect any serious injuries, call the non-emergency police number to report your accident, and wait for them to arrive to make a police report. NEVER attempt to move a seriously injured individual unless they are in grave danger of sustaining further injuries. If your vehicle is blocking traffic, try to move it safely to the side of the road while you wait for the police. Turn on your emergency lights or set up flares to ensure that you are visible to passing motorists.

What To Do After A Car Accident- Exchange Information and Stay Calm

No matter what happens in the aftermath of an accident, it won’t help anything if you panic, get angry at the other driver or lose your cool. To the best of your ability, tell the police officers exactly what happened. Do not speculate or guess about the accident or exaggerate. If you don’t know the answer to a question, say so.  Answer truthfully, but remember that anything you say may be recorded or be admissible. Don’t try to make the other driver feel better by saying the accident was your fault if it wasn’t.

The police officer who responds to your accident will typically record the following information, but it’s a good idea to get this vital information from the individuals involved in an accident yourself if possible:

  • Name, address, driver’s license number
  • Insurance Information (Check to see if this matches their driver’s license information. If not, find out how the individual is related to the insurance holder.)
  • License plate number
  • Make/model/year of vehicle
  • Description of damage to the vehicle (It’s a good idea to take pictures of damage if possible with a disposable or cell phone camera.)
  • If there were witnesses to the accident, get their names and contact information if possible.

What To Do After An Accident- Seek Medical Attention

If you were injured in an automobile accident, it’s extremely important to seek appropriate medical attention immediately after your accident. It is possible to sustain injuries in an auto crash even when there is little to no damage to your vehicle.  Never lie or exaggerate about your symptoms following an accident. But if you are experiencing pain after an automobile accident, do not brush off your symptoms as a simple neck ache or sprain, or minimize your symptoms when you visit your doctor. It’s always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to your health, and you should not assume any physical symptoms or pain after a car accident will magically go away. The physical force involved in car accidents, even slow speed/minor car accidents, can be enough to cause serious and long-lasting injuries to your body.  Sometimes those injuries don’t show up on conventional scans or x-rays, but they can show up and affect your health well being for many years after your accident.

It’s important to see a medical professional to truthfully and accurately document your complaints and symptoms. Sometimes, even medical professionals may dismiss a patient’s symptoms after a car accident. If this happens to you, remain calm and insist that they record your symptoms. You may want to see another medical professional for a second opinion. It’s always wise to call a Maine car accident attorney in cases like these. You are the only person who knows what it feels like to live in your body, and if you are experiencing pain as a result of an auto crash, it should not be dismissed or downplayed by anyone, including medical professionals or insurance companies.

What To Do After A Car Accident-Call A Maine Car Accident Attorney

Insurance companies often try to pay as little money as possible after an automobile accident. That’s why it is wise to contact an experienced Maine car accident attorney after your accident. Call the Maine car accident attorneys at Hardy, Wolf and Downing BEFORE you speak to your insurance company. This move alone can often DOUBLE the size of your settlement. The experienced personal injury attorneys at Hardy, Wolf and Downing know exactly how to deal with insurance companies after car accidents, and can help you get the compensation for your injuries that you deserve rather than the lowest amount the insurance company wants to pay. Choosing the right Maine car accident attorney can mean the difference between getting a fair settlement, or being pushed around by an aggressive, unfair insurance company claims representative or attorney who would rather protect the company’s bottom line rather than your long-term health and well being. 

We provide our blog as a service to our clients.  They are meant to be purely informational. If you or a loved one has been in an accident and would like a free consultation with a personal injury attorney, please call our firm today at 1-800-INJURED to start understanding your legal rights.

Teenage Drivers and Car Accidents

teen car accident

“The best way to keep children at home is to make the home atmosphere pleasant, and let the air out of the tires.” Dorothy Parker
teen car accident

Being the parent of a teenager isn’t for the faint of heart.  Seemingly overnight, the sweet toddler who was once begging you for another bedtime story is suddenly asking for the key to the family car so they can stay out past your bedtime.  Gulp! Although it may be tempting to keep your teenager at home so you can keep them safe  (perhaps using Dorothy Parker’s suggestion of letting the air of the tires),  teens do grow up and eventually spread their wings.  Inevitably,  that means driver’s licenses, cars and parents spending late nights worrying over their teens and whether they are safe. (more…)

Understanding Emotional and Psychological Trauma After A Car Accident

trauma visual notes

depression after car accidentWith roughly 250 million cars and light trucks on our nation’s roadways,  roadside automobile accidents are a familiar sight for most motorists.  It’s rare to cruise down a busy highway without seeing the tell-tale flashing lights of emergency vehicles at the site of a car crash. Makeshift memorials for victims of fatal automobile accidents dot overpasses and crosswalks, and billboards along the highways remind drivers of the costs of drunk and distracted driving.

Unfortunately,  no matter how carefully you drive, or how many technological advances have been made in driver safety, one simple fact remains- if you regularly drive an automobile in the United States,  it’s likely that you or someone close to you will be involved in an automobile accident during your lifetime.  Sadly,  many of those accidents will leave the involved parties with lasting disabilities.   A significant number will prove fatal.

Unfortunately, after years of declining numbers of automobile accidents, 2012 was the first year in recent history when the number of car accidents rose. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, in 2012,  the number of people injured in automobile accidents experienced its first statistically significant increase since 1995.   

Consider these statistics on roadside automobile accidents:

  • There are roughly 6 million automobile accidents per year in the United States, averaging one accident every 10 to 15 seconds.
  • Approximately 3 million people are injured in automobile accidents every year.
  • Approximately 2 million people who are injured in automobile accidents sustain permanent disabilities.
  • Approximately 40,000 people die every year as a result of automobile accidents.
  • Automobile accidents are the leading cause of death for individuals between the ages of 5 and 34 years (CDC).
  • Statistics suggest that 1 out of every 4 drivers will be involved in a car accident over a five year period.

Emotional and Psychological Effects of a Car Accident

The rise in traffic accidents is unwelcome news for motorists on many levels.  Car accidents are an obvious financial burden for both individuals and families.  According to AAA, roadside accidents cost drivers a staggering $299.5 billion dollars a year,  or $1,522 dollars per person per year.  But as anyone who has been involved in an automobile accident can attest,  the financial costs of car accidents pale in comparison to the physical and psychological trauma these accidents often leave in their wake.

What Causes Emotional and Psychological Trauma?

Research suggests that lasting emotional and psychological trauma can result from stressful events we experience in our lives, including car accidents.  Although these events do not necessarily involve physical harm or injury, they are typically associated with unexpected, stressful events that are outside of our control.

Many unexpected, stressful event that causes someone to feel a loss of control can cause psychological trauma. These events can include job losses, being diagnosed with a life-threatening or disabling condition, the death of a spouse, loss of a significant relationship or being the victim of a crime.

But, not everyone who experiences a stressful or traumatic event goes on to develop symptoms of emotional or psychological trauma.  Psychological and emotional trauma develops when an individual who experiences a stressful or traumatic event feels overwhelmed, alone and unable to cope in the aftermath of the event.  They then struggle with the requirements of normal,  everyday life, and find themselves unable to process the stress of the traumatic event on their own.

Often, individuals who suffer psychological and emotional trauma after stressful, unexpected events experience debilitating symptoms of fear, helplessness, panic, disconnection or depression that leave them unable to work and enjoy their lives and personal relationships to the fullest.  Those individuals can recover,  but they need support, guidance and often professional help.

Understanding Emotional and Psychological Trauma After a Car Accident

Experts agree that being involved in an automobile accident,  regardless of the severity of the accident,  can lead to lasting emotional trauma that detracts from an individual’s ability to function optimally in work, school and at home.  Researchers note that significant emotional trauma can take place, even if the automobile accident did not cause lasting physical damage. How can this occur?  If an automobile accident was “minor”,  or didn’t cause any permanent or lasting injury,  how can it cause lasting emotional trauma?

Car accidents can lead to emotional and psychological trauma,  regardless of their severity, because it is the individual’s experience of an automobile accident that causes them to feel traumatized, not simply the severity of the crash itself.

No matter how or why an event caused emotional trauma,  experts suggest that emotional traumas share three common elements:

  • The trauma was unexpected.
  • The person was unprepared for the trauma.
  • There was nothing the person could do to prevent the trauma from happening.

An individual’s experience of an event is (generally) what determines the level of trauma that they ultimately experience (the experience of trauma includes a complex interplay of factors, which may include the severity of the accident, prior experiences with accidents, psychological history, social support systems, etc).  So,  what one person experiences as stressful and frightening,  another person may experience as completely benign.  For example, if an individual is involved in an automobile accident,  their brain will respond to the accident in a unique way, based on their individual makeup.  There is no way to predict exactly how one person will respond to an accident, or whether they will develop symptoms of psychological trauma. The wide variety of emotional responses to automobile accidents occurs because individuals react very differently to stress, injury and trauma. These reactions are based on a complex interplay of factors, which include their personality, psychological history, and overall health.

Understanding the Brain’s Role In Emotional and Psychological Reaction to Car Accidents

Researchers are making great strides in understanding why some people have strong emotional reactions to stressful events such as car accidents. In the past,  researchers were limited to studying the brains of accident victims after they had passed away.  With the advent of new, high tech brain scans,  researchers can now “see” how brains react to unexpected, stressful stimuli,  such as car accidents.

Brain scans have revealed that the stress of being in a traumatic situation,  such as a car accident, can literally change the structure and function of the brain.  Brain researchers suggest that the brain can be divided into three areas: The cortex (outer surface of the brain), where our higher thinking skills take place; the center of the brain (the limbic system), where our emotions take place;  and the brain stem (also called the reptilian brain), which controls basic survival functions.  Brain scans show that traumatic situations affect the frontal cortex (where the emotional part of the brain and the higher, thinking part of the brain “meet”).  Researchers believe this pattern of functioning (affecting the frontal cortex) after a traumatic event appears in individuals with PTSD.

 Symptoms of Emotional and Psychological Trauma

Symptoms of emotional and psychological trauma after a car accident may present themselves immediately after an automobile accident.  Or,  they may not show up for several weeks or months after an accident.  This is highly individual. Your symptoms and emotional reactions to a car accident are a normal, natural part of healing. However,  there are signs that emotional and psychological symptoms are becoming overwhelming,  and you may need help dealing with those symptoms in order to truly recover from your trauma.

If you are experiencing difficulty with any of the following symptoms, it may be time to consult a qualified, licensed medical or mental health professional who can assess your mental health and help you regain a sense of safety, stability and emotional well-being.

If you experience any of the following symptoms for more than a few days,  or if your symptoms seem to be worsening following your car accident,  it may be time to consult a qualified medical or mental health professional:

  • Deep, persistent anxiety, panic
  • Anger, irritability, agitation.
  • Feelings of guilt and shame for having survived an accident.
  • Social withdrawal, feelings of sadness, depression, lack of interest in activities you formerly enjoyed.
  • Feeling detached emotionally (numbness)
  • Mood swings
  • Flashbacks, intrusive thoughts, phobias (e.g. driving)
  • Difficulty concentrating, forgetfulness
  • Hypervigilance, excessive worrying, preoccupation with safety
  • Stomach pain, headaches,
  • sexual dysfunction
  • marked changes in eating patterns (weight loss or gain)
  • Sudden crying spells, frequent crying, feeling out of control
  • Nightmares, difficulty sleeping

If you or someone you care about has been involved in an automobile accident and is showing persistent signs of psychological trauma,  it’s important to seek professional help.  If your psychological symptoms are getting worse rather than better,  please, don’t dismiss your feelings.  No matter what others may suggest,  “burying” your feelings will not make them go away,  and you are not abnormal for feeling the way you do.  If you are struggling with your emotions after a car accident, seek professional help so that you can return to the life you enjoyed prior to your accident.

If your symptoms are interfering with your interpersonal relationships, ability to work,  go to school or you are having difficulty doing things that remind you of the accident (driving, going past the accident scene, etc), you can find a qualified therapist, mental health professional or medical professional who understands emotional trauma after car accidents. Together, you will be able to create an effective treatment plan tailored to your symptoms and personality.

There is help and hope for those suffering from emotional trauma after a car accident.  But before you can feel better,  you must take that all important first step and reach out for support.  As you heal,  remember to be patient and kind to yourself,  and know as you head down the path to recovery that you are not alone and there are brighter days ahead.

If you have been injured in an automobile accident and are experiencing symptoms of emotional and psychological trauma,  you deserve to be compensated for your injuries.  Let the experienced Maine personal injury attorneys at Hardy, Wolf and Downing assess your personal injury car accident case,  free of charge.  We understand the physical, financial and emotional ramifications of automobile accidents in Maine,  and we work to get every one of our Portland and Lewiston car accident victims the just and fair compensation they deserve. We are an experienced personal injury law firm who knows how to fight for your rights after you have been injured in a car accident.  We’ve worked for clients across the state of Maine, and helped them fight for their rights when they have been injured in an automobile accident.  So, if you or someone you love is struggling emotionally,  psychologically or physically after a car accident,  know that our car accident attorneys understand.  Don’t make the mistake of fighting insurance companies on your own.  Let the experienced Maine personal injury team of Hardy, Wolf and Downing fight for you.

We provide our blog as a service to our clients, and they are meant to be purely informational. If you or a loved one has been in an accident and would like a free consultation with a personal injury attorney, please call our firm today at 1-800-INJURED to start understanding your legal rights.

Avoiding Pedestrian and Automobile Accidents

Pedestrian Walk Sign

car pedestrian accidentIf you live in Maine, you’ll never run out of wonderful places to explore. But in order for everyone to enjoy hiking, walking and sightseeing safely,  motorists and pedestrians must be mindful of each other’s whereabouts and focus on sharing the roadways safely.  Especially as the weather warms up, more pedestrians will head outdoors to enjoy the beautiful sights around the state.  In order to help prevent tragic, unnecessary automobile and pedestrian accidents,  motorists and pedestrians must follow the rules of the road and make safety a top priority. Understanding pedestrian and driving safety can help prevent a car pedestrian accident, and may even save a life.

Statistics on Pedestrian and Automobile Accidents

Across the state, there are hundreds of hiking and biking trails, historic sites and museums to visit, even walking tours designed just for foodies offered in beautiful downtown Portland.  But whether you’re strolling through the Old Port area of downtown Portland,  (which is quite convenient to Hardy, Wolf and Downing’s downtown Portland legal offices), or strolling along the shore at Kettle Cove, pedestrians should be especially alert and aware anytime they are crossing the roadway.   According to recent national trends,  one pedestrian is injured every 8 minutes,  and one pedestrian dies every two hours.

Bustling downtown Portland and Lewiston are wonderful places to visit.  But whether you’re hiking, window shopping or taking a stroll after dinner,  pedestrians should also keep in mind that urban areas are much more dangerous than quieter roadways. Almost 75% of pedestrian deaths occur in urban environments,  where traffic is heavier and there are more drivers, distractions and activity happening all around.  70% of the pedestrian deaths occur at nighttime, and many involve alcohol.  According to recent studies, 47% of traffic accidents that involved the death of a pedestrian involved some alcohol in the systems of either the driver, the pedestrian, or both.  Alcohol is a serious contributing factor in many pedestrian/automobile accidents; 33% of pedestrians involved in fatal automobile accidents had blood alcohol levels above the legal limits.  Alcohol impairs driving,  but may also impair your senses when walking, crossing the street and judging distances of oncoming traffic.

One simple way to prevent pedestrian/automobile accidents is for pedestrians to limit the number of alcoholic beverages they consume before they hit the streets.  Alternately, they can ask a friend to walk with them if they feel at all impaired.  Drivers,  of course,  should never drive under the influence of alcohol;  impaired driving puts pedestrians at risk for grave injuries or even death.

According to the Centers for Disease Control,  male pedestrians are more likely to be injured in a pedestrian/motor vehicle accident than females,  and your risk for being involved in an automobile/pedestrian accident rises as you age.  Teens and young adults (15-29 years of age) are also more likely to be treated in emergency rooms for crash-related injuries than any other age group.

Safety Tips for Pedestrians

Pedestrians can keep a few tips in mind to help keep them safer when they need to cross busy streets or share the road with automobiles. Although motorists should always be on the lookout for pedestrians, drivers all too often fail to see pedestrians,  especially at intersections where they are making turns or when it’s dark.  Pedestrians should always wait until traffic is clear before crossing the street in a crosswalk whenever possible.

Far too many drivers are distracted by cell phones and other electronic devices when they are behind the wheel. Other drivers are fatigued, have poor driving skills or be under the influence of drugs or alcohol.  So,  it’s wise for pedestrians to be vigilant anytime they cross a street.

Drivers may make mistakes when they drive distracted,  but distractions are also a problem for pedestrians.  If a pedestrian is walking without paying attention to their surroundings, it’s easy to make a deadly mistake by crossing in front of a car. Pedestrians can help keep themselves safer by minimizing distractions while they are in traffic (such as talking or texting while walking or listening to music,  which may make it difficult to hear an oncoming car). Whenever possible, pedestrians should use the sidewalk.  However, there are times there are no sidewalks available, or you using the sidewalk isn’t feasible.  In those cases, the CDC recommends that you walk facing traffic, using great caution.

Children At Increased Risk For Pedestrian Car Accidents

Children are at the greatest risk for serious injury or death from pedestrian/automobile accidents,  in part because of their small size.  Children are also less familiar with traffic rules and have a more difficult time judging the speed and distance of an oncoming car.  The CDC estimates that 1 in 4 traffic deaths for children age 14 and under are due to pedestrian/automobile accidents.

Parents should take time to educate their children about crossing the street safely,  and always keep an eye on children when they are playing near busy roads and streets.  Instruct your children never to follow a lost ball or other toys into the road.  Practice looking both ways with your child while crossing the street.  Although crossing the street may seem like an elementary task, even older children can become distracted while chatting with friends and simply forget about safety.  Keep practicing safe pedestrian behavior with your children,  and they’ll stay safe as they grow.

Children should be reminded to use crosswalks at all times,  never cross between parked cars and wear bright, reflective clothing and carry a flashlight when walking in the early morning or evening hours.

If your children walk to school,  map out a safe walking route with together.  If possible, minimize the number of times your child needs to cross busy streets,  and help them recognize traffic patterns and when it’s safe to cross.

Practice walking the route with your children several times, at different times of the day, to ensure they are consistently following safety precautions. Safe Kids Worldwide offers excellent advice for keeping children safe while walking, along with information on a variety of important safety topics related to children and their health and well being.

The Hardy, Wolf and Downing Personal Injury Team Knows How to Help If You’ve Been Injured In A Pedestrian  Automobile Accident

So, whether you are planning a trip from Lewiston to the Thorncrag Nature Sanctuary (close to Hardy, Wolf and Downing’s Lewiston law offices), or a relaxing stroll along Lewiston’s Riverwalk, the unfortunate reality is that being a pedestrian can be dangerous. When motorists are distracted, driving under the influence, driving too fast for conditions or otherwise driving in a dangerous fashion, pedestrians are at risk of being seriously injured in an automobile accident.

 If you or a loved one has been injured in a car pedestrian accident while you were walking, call the experienced personal injury attorneys at Hardy, Wolf and Downing.  With three convenient locations, two in Portland (Congress Street, on Auburn Street) in Portland,  and an office in Lewiston,  Maine, our experienced Maine car accident attorneys will assist your family in all aspects of your pedestrian/automobile accident personal injury case.  If you have been hit by a car and the driver was at fault, you deserve to be compensated for your physical and emotional injuries. The Hardy, Wolf and Downing personal injury team has extensive experience with pedestrian and car accidents in Maine,  and we will fight for your rights and help get you the fair and just treatment you deserve. 

Maine Spring Driving Safety Tips

fast moving traffic on major highway

spring safety tipsSpring can be a dangerous time for Maine drivers. Even though Mark Twain wasn’t concerned about driver safety as he addressed a room of New Englanders in 1876, he nevertheless noted, “In the spring, I have counted 136 different kinds of weather inside of 24 hours.”  Having lived in Connecticut for many years, Twain was familiar with the fierce unpredictability of Spring in the Eastern United States.  Had he been a resident of Maine, however, Twain may have noted an even more mercurial and unpredictable Springtime weather pattern.

When it comes to driver safety,  Maine’s volatile spring weather conditions should never be taken lightly. Although it’s tempting to relax a bit when the sun begins to shine and the days grow longer, springtime in Maine is truly a dangerous time for motorists.  Drivers should prepare themselves for emergency road conditions during the spring months, just as they do during the challenging winter driving season.

During the erratic spring months,  when weather conditions vary quickly, it can be difficult to predict road conditions with any degree of certainty.  Within a very short period of time,  conditions can swing wildly between blue skies, rain, snow,  sleet and hail.  That makes it even more important to brush up on spring safe driving tips,  keep your vehicle in good working condition,  and minimize distractions while driving.  Brushing up on spring driving safety tips will help keep you and your family safer on the road, and may even save a life.

Maine Spring Driving Safety Tips: Don’t Forget About Old Man Winter Just Yet!

Although the days are getting longer and spring is in the air,  don’t forget about your winter driving safety skills just yet.  Snowstorms pop up throughout the spring months,  so it’s important to keep winter supplies in your vehicle in March and April (and yes, sometimes even into May). Black ice is also often a hazard in the spring months,  so it’s important to slow down and watch for slick,  wet-looking pavement when the temperatures begin to drop.  Many drivers don’t think about icy conditions when spring rolls around,  but it’s important to keep your winter driving skills in mind, even as the weather begins to warm up.

Maine Spring Safety Tips: Watch Out For Fog

Fog is another serious spring driving hazard in Maine.  According to Maine.gov, standing snowpack, rainy spring weather and fluctuating temperatures set the stage for heavy Spring fog,  which can happen very quickly.  Fog may start off patchy in some areas then become dense quickly in nearby areas,  so it’s important to slow down when conditions become foggy.  Do not use your high beam headlights (keep your headlights on low).  If the fog iis dense consider driving with your emergency four way flashers on,  and watch carefully for stranded vehicles (both on the shoulder of the road and on the roadway itself).  You may come up on stranded or slow moving vehicles very quickly in foggy conditions,  which is why it’s so important to drive slowly and cautiously when Springtime fogs set in.

Maine Spring Driving Safety Tips:  Beware of Heavy Spring Rains

Heavy spring rains often cause areas of standing water on roadways, especially when cycles of freezes and thaws, combined with mud and debris, clog storm drains. When driving through standing water, slow down.  If you drive too fast over an area of standing water,  you risk losing control of your vehicle and hydroplaning.  To stay safe in rainy Spring weather,  make sure you have good tires on your car with an adequate amount of tread,  and check your wiper blades to make sure they are in good working order.  In a heavy rain storm,  leave extra distance between vehicles.  Vehicles in front of you may throw excessive amounts of water from their tires,  which can obscure your vision, no matter how fast your windshield wipers are moving.

Maine Spring Driving Safety Tips: Watch Out For Potholes

Potholes are worsened when heavy Spring rains run into cracks in the roadways.  When  water repeatedly freezes and thaws,  potholes become larger and more dangerous to motorists.  Potholes can also be extremely difficult to see if they are covered by standing water, mud or other roadway debris.  Even if you travel a route often,  you can still be surprised by a pothole in an area of roadway that wasn’t there just days before.  It’s wise to slow down and watch for potholes in the Spring,  especially when traveling over standing water that makes the road surface harder to see.  Potholes can cause significant damage to your vehicle or make it more difficult to steer or maintain control of your vehicle if you are driving too fast for conditions.

Maine Spring Driving Safety Tips: Be On the Lookout For Increased Cyclists, Pedestrians, Etc.

As the weather becomes warmer,  there are bound to be more bicyclists, motorcycles, runners and pedestrians on the roadways.  In order to avoid tragic traffic accidents, drivers should always minimize distractions while driving,  especially from cell phones and other electronic devices. Drivers should never text while driving. Motorists should always pay attention to their driving in order to avoid deadly accidents with cyclists and other outdoor enthusiasts who they must safely and mindfully share the roadway with at all times.

We hope our spring safety tips for driving in Maine help keep you and your family safer this season.  However,  if you or a loved one has been involved in an automobile accident, or injured in a car accident, please contact one of our experienced Maine personal injury lawyers at Hardy, Wolf and Downing.  For your convenience,  the caring attorneys at Hardy, Wolf and Downing will direct you to an experienced Lewiston personal injury lawyer or Portland personal injury lawyer who will handle your family’s personal injury case with the utmost care and concern.  Our personal injury lawyers will assist your family in every aspect of your case, and help you get the compensation you deserve for your injuries.  Don’t make the mistake of battling insurance companies and lawyers on your own.  Hire the best Maine personal injury lawyers- the Hardy, Wolf and Downing personal injury team.

We provide our blog as a service to our clients.  They are meant to be purely informational. If you or a loved one has been in an accident and would like a free consultation with a personal injury attorney, please call our firm today at 1-800-INJURED to start understanding your legal rights.

Increased Risk of Depression After Mild Traumatic Brain Injury

brain with bandage

Mild Traumatic Brain Injury: Doubt and Diagnosis 

traumatic brain injury attorneyMild traumatic brain injuries (mTBI) are serious injuries to brain tissue that may leave patients with lasting physiological damage and serious cognitive deficits. These injuries also have long-term effects on victims’ ability to earn a living and perform routine functions of daily living. Unfortunately, mild traumatic brain injuries are often misdiagnosed or dismissed as “inconsequential”  by the medical community because they can be difficult to diagnose correctly with conventional scans, x rays and other diagnostic tools available to most clinicians.

Additionally, symptoms of mTBI can appear months after the initial trauma and may mimic those of other diseases. Tragically, patients with mild traumatic brain injuries are often accused of faking or exaggerating their symptoms by doctors who are not up to date on the latest brain imaging techniques, research and treatment modalities.  But a study in The American Journal of Psychiatry notes that “…a normal MRI of the brain after mild TBI does not suggest the absence of injury but instead indicates only that any changes in the brain caused by the TBI are below the detection threshold of conventional clinical MRI.”

What Causes Mild Traumatic Brain Injuries?

Our brains are made of soft, pudding-like tissue containing millions of nerve fibers. The human brain is also surrounded by cerebral-spinal fluid and is designed to “float” within the bony casing of our skulls. If the head strikes a fixed object, such as a steering wheel of a car during a car accident,  the force of the impact is transmitted to the non-stationary and extremely delicate brain, suspended in fluid inside our skulls.

In an automobile accident, when the accident victim strikes his or her head,  the brain can actually move, twist and experiences rotational forces that cause differential movement of brain tissue.  Although our skulls are designed to protect and encase our brains,  our delicate brain tissue is not designed to withstand such sudden, abrupt trauma (e.g. automobile accidents, shaken baby syndrome). When the brain, which is “floating” inside the protective enclosure of the skull and cerebral spinal fluid, moves inside the skull with enough force, it can actually hit the front and back of the skull. This is a form of TBI called a coup-contrecoup injury and is quite common in automobile accidents (even in low-speed crashes).

When the brain moves and stops abruptly inside the skull, neural cells and axons may be stretched, twisted and sometimes even torn. This can wreak havoc on the precisely balanced structures in a normally functioning brain. The damage isn’t always apparent with conventional medical imaging,  however,  and can be easily missed by both doctors and patients.

Depression After Mild Traumatic Brain Injuries

According to a study performed at the Department of Neurology at the University of Modena in Italy, doctors found that patients with mild traumatic brain injuries who appeared to have “relatively minor or microscopic” stretching and swelling of axons showed “significant” physiological and cognitive deficits.  The most significant finding of this study, however, was the relationship between mild traumatic brain injury and depression. The study’s authors note, “…depression is clearly more evident in the head injured group than in matched controls. Moreover, depression seems a more frequently reported symptom.”  The study suggests that 39 percent of patients who experienced a mild traumatic brain injury exhibited clinical symptoms of depression one year after their initial trauma.  The study’s authors conclude, “…patients who have sustained mild head injuries are at a substantially higher risk of developing depression when compared with an appropriate control group.” Other studies of patients with mild traumatic brain injuries report similar findings.  Depression usually occurs within one year of the initial head trauma, but studies show mTBI patients have a substantially increased risk of developing depression for many years after their initial injury.

Other groundbreaking research suggests that earlier head trauma may “prime” a victim of mild traumatic brain injury for more dramatic injury later in life.  For example, a previous head injury may put injured brains on “high alert” status from prior injuries.  Even if a head injury occurred many years before, researchers theorize that a previously injured brain mobilizes specialized defenses which somehow protect itself from future damage.  If an accident victim was previously injured, then receives a subsequent head injury (even if the injury was mild and occurred many years later)  their brain may be programmed to “over” react to the stress of their injury, no matter how mild.  Injury symptoms are then multiplied in the subsequent brain trauma, and accident victims suffer a greater degree of cognitive and physiological decline (which may explain the greater incidence of delayed onset depression among mTBI patients).

If you have been involved in an automobile accident,  it is critically important to seek medical attention immediately after your injury. Take careful note of all of your symptoms. However, do not assume that a lack of “obvious” signs of head trauma (broken bones, lacerations, trauma that shows up on an x-ray or MRI) means that you have escaped without injury. Symptoms of mild traumatic head injuries can occur months or even years after a car accident, and can seriously affect your health and wellbeing. Let the experienced personal and traumatic brain injury attorney team at Hardy, Wolf and Downing assess your case, help you deal with insurance companies, doctors and answer any questions you may have regarding your rights. Our experienced Maine personal injury team can help you and your family get the fair and just compensation you deserve.

Shortage of Caregivers for the Elderly

Elderly woman sitting next to Christmas tree

at home care servicesIn the year 2000, the Family Caregiver Alliance reported that approximately 13 million Americans required some type of long-term care in nursing homes, assisted living facilities or at home.  According to current estimates,  by the year 2050,  this figure is expected to double to approximately 27 million.  This means that in roughly 36 years, 14 million older Americans will require paid long-term care services, either in a nursing home, assisted living facility or at home with the services of a home health care aide. 

As our population ages and life expectancy increases,  older individuals often need assistance with routine tasks of daily living (e.g. bathing, dressing, meal preparation, banking, shopping,  etc.)  Statistics show that by age 65, older individuals have a 68% chance of being physically or cognitively impaired in at least two tasks of daily living, and will require at home care services or assistance of some kind. 

Shortage of Caregivers for the Elderly: Why Sound the Alarm?

We’ve known for many years that the elderly population in the United States is growing.  What many don’t realize,  however,  is that we’re also facing an imminent Shortage of Caregivers for the Elderly.  According to employment projections released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for personal care aides, home health aides, and nursing assistant jobs is expected to grow exponentially over the next ten years.  These workers are trained to provide at home care services to the elderly in nursing homes, group homes and assisted livings communities, such as personal grooming, using the bathroom, eating, etc.  By 2020,  the Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute estimates that there will be over 5 million paid caregivers in the US alone- making it the largest occupation,  surpassing employment in retail sales and food services.

But even in the current labor market, there often aren’t enough applicants to fill these relatively low-paying,  highly demanding positions.  There is a serious Shortage of Caregivers for the Elderly,  and the problem isn’t showing signs of abating any time soon. Caregiving positions have high rates of turnover and low employee retention rates.  Caregivers are frequently subject to stressful working conditions,  low pay,  physically taxing work and typically don’t receive benefits.

In most cases,  when there is a large enough demand for labor,  wages increase.  Most economists and eldercare experts suggest this won’t be the case with direct caregivers,  because Medicaid and Medicare pay their salaries.  In the current economic climate,  both programs are under enormous cost-cutting pressures,  which make it highly unlikely caregiver’s wages will increase anytime soon.  Additionally,  when Medicaid and Medicare stop paying for caregiver services (e.g. when days are maxed out in a hospital stay),  the vast majority of low income and middle-class families simply can’t afford to pay for caregivers out of pocket.  Although the care these caregivers provide is invaluable, their services aren’t affordable for most families,  even at the already low wages they receive.

Consequences of Shortage of Caregivers for the Elderly

When families can’t afford to hire a trained caregiver, they are often forced to provide care themselves.  This puts a strain on family members who have to juggle work duties, personal lives along with caring for an elderly family member.  Caregiver burnout is a real problem facing family members who choose to step up and care for an elderly family member.  Because most people don’t have any training or experience in caring for the elderly,  they may grow frustrated with the physical and emotional demands of caring for an older adult. This can be an extremely dangerous situation for the elderly,  who don’t always have ways to communicate if they are being abused or neglected by their overworked or frustrated caregivers.

Currently,  agencies charge $18 dollars an hour for personal care aides and $19 dollars an hour for home health aides.  The aides themselves take home about half that amount.  Many home health care aides and eldercare experts who see an imminent care crisis looming hope the government will set standards for fair wages for personal care aides,  especially when it comes to benefits, overtime pay and training.  In order to fill the positions we currently have and the ones we’ll have in the near future,  we need to make caregiving jobs accessible and attractive to people seeking employment.  These much-needed changes will help ameliorate a serious situation and prevent the Shortage of Caregivers for the Elderly from reaching a crisis point.

Personal Injury, Elder Abuse, Neglect, and Shortage of Caregivers for the Elderly

Elder abuse is a frightening consequence of poorly trained health care aides or family members that have taken on a role caring for an older family member which they are unable to handle.  If you have been a victim of elder abuse,  or know someone who has been a victim of elder abuse at the hands of a medical professional, health care aide,  or in a nursing home,  contact the personal injury attorneys at Hardy, Wolf and Downing.  Your elderly loved one deserves to live their lives in peace,  safety and dignity.  Our experienced team of personal injury attorneys will assess your nursing home or elder care abuse case with sensitivity and can handle insurance companies,  nursing homes and administrators who may deny abuse occurred.  If you have been injured as a result of elder abuse, or nursing home abuse or neglect,  contact our personal injury team.  We will assess your nursing home abuse case,  and help you get the fair and just compensation you deserve for your injuries.

A Shortage of Caregivers – New York Times

We provide our blog as a service to our clients.  They are meant to be purely informational. If you or a loved one has been in an accident and would like a free consultation with a personal injury attorney, please call our firm today at 1-800-INJURED to start understanding your legal rights.

Maine Elderly Abuse Attorneys: When Is It Time To Take the Car Keys?

Heavy traffic on motorway

elderly driving lawsAs our parents age, many face health problems that make it unsafe for them to continue driving. The experienced Maine elderly abuse attorneys at Hardy, Wolf and Downing know that adult children often face the difficult conversation with their aging parents when concerns arise about driving safety.

By age 70,  eldercare experts estimate that 80 percent of older adults will suffer from arthritis,  a painful condition which causes inflammation of the joints and makes turning, twisting and flexing involved in driving an automobile extremely difficult.  Advanced age often brings a host of conditions which can negatively affect driving performance,  such as weakening muscles, reduced flexibility, limited range of motion and worsening eyesight.

In addition to age-related health changes, studies also suggest that 75 percent of drivers aged 65 and above use at least one prescription medication,  but less than one third acknowledged that prescription medication can negatively impact their driving performance.  Overall,  many aspects of age-related physical and mental decline make driving more challenging for elderly drivers.  In some cases,  it can make driving dangerous or even deadly. The experienced Maine Elderly Abuse Attorneys at Hardy, Wolf and Downing understand that initiating a conversation about driving with your parents can be difficult.  We’d like to make that conversation a bit easier by providing some background information that may help inform your discussion.

Role Reversal

As parents age,  adult children often step up to take on the role of caregiver, offering extra support, guidance and help.  But when parent and adult children reverse roles,  adult children may struggle with mixed emotions.  Guilt, anxiety, anger and sadness are just a few of the reactions adult children feel when they realize their aging parents may not be safe behind the wheel.  Worse,  adult children don’t know how to broach the delicate subject of taking the keys away from their elderly parents or don’t want to tackle the discussion because it is an emotional minefield fraught with hurt feelings, mistrust and fear.  But no matter how difficult it is to tackle this difficult subject, the answer is never total avoidance.  The Maine Elderly Abuse attorneys at Hardy, Wolf and Downing have seen the repercussions of older adults who are no longer safe to drive, and know the havoc an automobile accident can wreak on a family.

There is simply too much at stake to sweep this difficult subject under the rug;  both the safety of your loved one and the safety of others on the road.  No matter how uncomfortable or stressful the conversation may feel,  it’s vital to plan your approach and discuss driving safety with your elderly parents.  Once you do,  you’ll both feel a great sense of relief.

The best case scenario is that an elderly parent who is experiencing difficulty driving will give up their keys voluntarily.  Unfortunately,  this isn’t usually the case. Understandably, many elderly parents resist giving up their keys because getting behind the wheel of a car represents freedom – the freedom to go wherever they choose,  whenever they want,  without having to ask for help or permission.  Losing that freedom is a psychological blow that can make elderly parents fear for their independence and quality of life.  Understanding the emotional side of the equation for your elderly loved one will help you approach the subject with care and sensitivity.

Families Struggle To Take the Keys Away From Older Drivers

Plan Your Discussion Ahead of Time 

Eldercare experts suggest approaching the emotionally charged discussion of handing over the car keys with a well thought out plan.  Before you bring up the subject of problematic driving with your elderly parent,  have a plan in place to reassure them that they’ll continue to have a full social life, even if they are no longer be able to drive independently.   Have realistic suggestions for how they’ll be able to see friends, take part in activities they enjoy,  and get to the store or appointments on their own.  If you are not prepared with good answers,  you’re likely in for a battle.

If mom or dad needs to give up driving, some families create driving schedules,  alternating driving duties among family members. Other families hire helpers who drive and do errands on set days of the week.  Although it can become fairly expensive,  other families rely on taxi cabs or public transportation.  If your parents will be using public transportation,  make the transition easier by practicing using buses, taxi cabs or other forms of public transit with them,  going on special outings and helping them become comfortable with the public transportation system.

In some cases,  especially in rural areas,  you may need to find creative solutions for transportation because public transportation won’t be readily available.  Check with local churches and volunteer organizations for senior care in rural areas.  Many offer volunteer-based driving services for the elderly.  Sometimes, unorthodox solutions work well.  For example,  a three-wheeled bicycle can be an excellent solution for an elderly parent who is no longer safe to drive a car but is healthy enough to ride a bike.  This option will only work well in warmer climates, and for seniors who live close to stores, churches and other commercial areas.

Some families choose to move their elderly parents to senior apartments with on-site amenities, or to an area within walking distance of shops, churches and hospitals. Being able to walk to the hair salon,  doctor’s appointments,  church services,  etc,  takes away the added pressure of needing to drive in order to complete the routine tasks of daily living.  No matter how you solve the driving problem,  make sure your elderly parent has a good plan in place to stay active and socially engaged.  No one should be asked to give up their keys without knowing how they’ll remain active and involved with their friends and family.

Who Will Your Parent Respond Best To?

Before sitting down with your aging parents to discuss concerns about their driving abilities,  there are several considerations to bear in mind.  First,  think about who your parent responds best to in emotionally charged discussions.  A doctor or trusted family friend may be less threatening and hold a neutral position of authority when it comes time to discuss their driving abilities.  If a doctor tells your elderly parent they are no longer safe to drive,  that may effectively let you off the hook.  The doctor will take on the role of  “the enforcer”,  and you can take on the role of the proactive problem solver who arranges transportation and helps your parent adjust to life without driving.

If you suspect your parent will not react well to the suggestion that they are not safe to drive,  choose your conversation style and methods with great care.  Don’t antagonize or lecture your parent about giving up the keys.  Be sensitive to the fact that losing the ability to drive is a difficult part of aging.  One conversation may not be enough to solve the driving issue.  Instead,  it may be wise to bring up your concerns over time,  asking questions like, “It seems like it’s more difficult for you to drive at night.  How are you feeling about your eyesight?”  Or,  “People sure drive fast nowadays.  Have you had problems driving on the highways?” Lastly,  you can always offer rides,  saying things like, “I always like to spend extra time with you.  Is it OK if I pick you up this time so we can have time in the car together to visit?”

Before you have any discussion about driving safety, think about your parent’s personality type. For example, if your parent is generally concerned for the safety and well being of others,  try appealing to their conscientious nature and natural concern for others. Give examples of times when their driving hasn’t been safe, and let them know that you are concerned they may hurt someone else in an automobile accident. In some cases, appealing to a parent’s concerns about personal liability and protecting their finances or financial legacy may be more effective. If that is the case for your elderly parent,  point out that if they get behind the wheel and injure another driver,  they could lose money or jeopardize their assets. 

The experienced Maine Elderly Abuse attorneys of Hardy, Wolf and Downing know that there’s no one way to approach this difficult subject. Every older adult is unique, as is every family. If you’re patient and loving and determined to approach this difficult subject with care and concern, you’ll eventually find a solution that works for your family.

Sometimes,  taking your parents for a vision screening when it’s time to renew their driver’s license is one simple approach if it’s truly time to take the keys away.  For example, if their eyesight has deteriorated,  some states may not renew their driver’s licenses.  Although most states do not require road tests for elderly drivers,  most states require some sort of vision screening for driver’s license renewals. Maine,  for example,  requires vision screenings for drivers license renewals every year after age 62. Making sure your parent stays up to date on their driver’s license renewals and vision screenings is one way to ensure they’ll stay safer behind the wheel.

Maine Drivers License Renewal Laws

Maine elderly abuse attorneys at Hardy, Wolf and Downing know that not every elderly driver is a dangerous driver. It’s important to note that age alone can not predict who is safe behind the wheel and who isn’t.  An 85-year-old driver may be safer than a 65-year-old driver who suffers from medical problems, or one any aged driver who texts behind the wheel.  Using common sense,  and looking for signs of poor driving,  can help you determine whether or not you have cause to worry about your elderly parent’s driving ability.  If you don’t live near your elderly parent but worry they are not safe behind the wheel,  check in with neighbors,  friends and their medical provider for potential insight into problematic driving behaviors.

Signs of Dangerous Driving Behaviors In the Elderly

  • Other drivers frequently honk while your parent is driving (or your parent complains other drivers are rude, impatient or always honking at them).
  • Driver struggles at higher speeds but does well on local roads.
  • Driver has deteriorating vision or complains about driving at night.
  • Driver gets lost often,  even in familiar areas.
  • Driver expresses concern about driving,  is fearful about driving or refuses to drive to new places.
  • Family members or friends have expressed concerns about a driver’s ability to drive safely.
  • Driver has been involved in accidents or received tickets.
  • Driver is no longer able to physically maintain automobile (pump gas,  check windshield washer fluid) or move easily (to put on a seat belt, turn to look for oncoming traffic, adjust mirrors, grip steering wheel).
  • Driver seems confused during long phone conversations. (As one eldercare expert points out,  it is easy to “fake” cognitive ability in shorter conversations,  but mental deterioration almost always shows up in conversations longer than 20 minutes.)

Tips For Taking the Keys

If you feel your elderly parent is not safe behind the wheel and you need to take the keys,  eldercare experts have suggestions to make the process smoother.  Don’t expect it the process to be easy,  but know it’s vitally important to the safety of your loved one and other drivers on the road to tackle this difficult and emotionally charged subject.

  • Remember,  this conversation isn’t any easier for your loved one than it is for you.  No one wants to lose their independence,  and losing the ability to drive is tough.  Let the reality of the situation sink in,  and don’t take a scolding attitude towards your parents.  That probably didn’t go over well with you when you were a teenager,  and it won’t go over well with them either!  Empathy will likely get you farther than a harsh attitude.
  • Appeal to their better nature – remind them of any fender benders,  tickets or problems they’ve had driving.  Remind them how much you care about them and their safety,  and that when they don’t have to worry about driving,  they’ll have more time to enjoy life without being afraid of hurting themselves or someone else when behind the wheel.
  • Suggest modifications to driving habits if that is appropriate to your parent’s situation.  For example,  if high speed or night driving is a problem,  suggest they limit their driving to daytime hours on familiar roads only.
  • Agree ahead of time when it will be time to give up driving altogether.  If you have a discussion with your elderly parents before there is a problem and agree on set parameters for giving up driving,  the situation should be much easier.

If you or a loved one has been injured in an automobile accident,  it is important to contact the experienced Maine personal injury attorneys at Hardy, Wolf and Downing.  We know how to handle insurance companies,  and get you the compensation for your pain and suffering that you deserve.  No matter what type of accident or personal liability issue your family is facing,  our personal injury team can help you sort out the facts and get the fair treatment and best result for your case.

The Maine Elderly Abuse Attorneys at Hardy, Wolf and Downing provide our blog as a service to our clients.  They are meant to be purely informational. If you or a loved one has been in an accident or has been involved in a crash as a result of distracted driving and would like a free consultation with a personal injury attorney, please call our firm today at 1-800-INJURED to start understanding your legal rights.

Maine Is Mad For Motorcycles

Portland Maine Motorcycle Accident Lawyer

motorcycle accident attorneyMaine’s scenic highways are consistently ranked among the nation’s top ten motorcycle routes.  With 3,478 miles of breathtaking coastline, over 60 lighthouses and almost 50 peninsulas to explore, there’s plenty of natural beauty to appreciate as you travel the state’s picturesque byways.

But before you set out on the motorcycle adventure of a lifetime,  it’s important to refresh your knowledge of motorcycle safety.

Mom Was Right: Wear A Helmet

Head injury is the leading cause of death in motorcycle accidents. A rider not wearing a helmet is 40% more likely to die of a head injury than one who isn’t wearing a helmet during an accident.

Function:  When purchasing a helmet,  go for function and safety over looks.  Novelty helmets do not offer adequate safety protection.  Select a helmet that meets recognized safety standards and regulations.

Fit: Your helmet should fit snugly, and you shouldn’t be able to fit more than a fingertip between the helmet and your forehead. Consider a full face or flip-up helmet,  which offers more protection and also helps protect the rider from road debris, bugs, and the elements. Full face helmets are designed to be more aerodynamic,  which also helps minimize rider fatigue. Make sure your helmet has good ventilation and superior visibility.  Do not buy used helmets,  and replace helmets that have been dropped or involved in a crash.  Experts suggest replacing all helmets every five years.

Smooth Operator: Get a valid motorcycle driver’s license.  If you are a new rider, know your limits and understand how to keep yourself and your bike well balanced and maintained. Give yourself time to get the hang of riding.  Don’t push yourself or your bike past the limits of safety or common sense.

Arrive Alive: Never operate your motorcycle under the influence of drugs or alcohol.  42% of motorcycle riders who died in a single vehicle crash had blood alcohol levels above 0.08%.  If you are tired, stop and take a rest. Avoid all driving distractions. Save talking, texting and fiddling with the radio and other electronics for rest stops.

Need For Speed: Excessive speed is a factor in 48% of motorcycle fatalities.    You don’t have to go fast to have fun.  Slow down and enjoy the ride. Not only will take in more of Maine’s picturesque beauty, but you’ll also significantly reduce your chances of being injured in an accident.

Look Out Lefties:  38% of fatal traffic accidents (involving two vehicles) occur when a vehicle is turning left in front of a motorcycle (failure to yield). Approach situations where another vehicle should yield with extreme caution, because they may not see you.

Mind the Messes:  Sand, gravel, wet pavement, icy conditions, and fog are all dangerous for motorcycles, which have less traction than automobiles. Avoid driving on the road shoulder, and be extra cautious in construction zones.  If an accident occurs as a result of unsafe road conditions (such as gravel in a construction site or another vehicle leaking oil) it is possible that another party is liable for damages incurred in your accident.

Look Ahead: A good rule of thumb is to assume other motorists can’t see you.  That way,  you’ll learn to anticipate when other drivers make sudden lane shifts, to avoid their blind spots, and focus on keeping a safe distance between yourself and other vehicles.  Never split lanes, speed or drive on the shoulder of the road. In heavy traffic,  keep an eye on the motorist in front of you. Watch their head movements,  not simply their tail lights.  If they look down, slow down yourself (they may be distracted by a cell phone,  other passengers, etc, which you can then anticipate by slowing down yourself). Many motorcyclists are injured when distracted drivers don’t notice them. It’s in your best interest to drive defensively whenever possible.

Safe Gear: Increase your visibility by keeping your headlights on, and wearing bright,  reflective clothing.  Keep yourself safe by wearing high-quality safety gear when you are riding.  Although you may feel footloose and fancy-free hopping on your bike in a t-shirt,  shorts and pair of sandals,  you need appropriate safety gear- unless, of course, you want to be a SQUID (aka Stupid Quick Underdressed Imminently Dead)!

Exploring Maine’s spectacular scenery will be even more enjoyable when you stay safe, alert and don’t become another motorcycle accident statistic.  If you are injured in a motorcycle accident and suspect the other driver was at fault, or if you were injured in a hit and run accident, contact the experienced motorcycle accident attorneys at Hardy, Wolf and Downing.  We understand motorcycle personal injury cases and can help assess your case and secure the fair and just compensation you deserve.

Automobile Accidents and Cervicogenic (CEH) Headaches

traumatic brain injury lawyer Maine

headaches after car accidentCervicogenic (CEH) headaches are defined as headaches caused by pain referred from the neck. Although cervicogenic headaches sometimes mimic symptoms of tension, migraine or cluster headaches,  their origins, causative factors and treatment are distinctly different.

‘Cervicogenic’ is a term that refers to the cervical area of the spine, which is located near the base of the skull.  Many patients with cervicogenic headaches have suffered damage, compression or irritation to the first three spinal nerves (C-1, C-2 and C-3). These nerves make up the upper (cervical) portion of the neck, and allow the neck to move and experience sensation.  If the spinal nerves in the cervical area are damaged,  it can lead to headaches or ‘referred pain’ which comes from the neck, and may cause frequent headaches when the patient moves the neck and subsequently ‘triggers’ cervicogenic headaches.

Symptoms

Most patients with cervicogenic headaches have unilateral (one-sided) head pain.  Many patients describe cervicogenic headaches as a steady pain near the base of the skull which sometimes extends to the back and shoulder blades. Some patients also experience pain in the front of their heads (near their eyebrows or forehead).  Unlike other types of headaches (e.g. cluster, migraine, tension),  cervicogenic headaches are not usually described as throbbing and are usually brought on by sudden neck movements (movements can be as minor as sneezing or bending).

Patients with cervicogenic headaches may also:

  • Exhibit sensitivity to light, motion and sound (and may experience nausea, vomiting, blurred vision, etc.) but these symptoms are usually less intense and frequent than those experienced during a migraine and other types of headaches.
  • Experience pain in the same arm and/or shoulder where their headache occurs (but pain sometimes occurs in both arms/shoulders).
  • Exhibit a limited range of motion in the neck.
  • Have their headaches triggered as a result of specific neck movements or pressures on their neck or spine (which can usually be pinpointed by a doctor’s physical examination of the neck and cervical area).
  • Develop an extremely stiff neck during their headache (and may experience near immobility due to neck or head pain).

Diagnosis

It can be difficult to diagnose cervicogenic headaches because their symptoms often mimic other headaches, and the exact cause of a headache is not always immediately clear to the patient or the medical provider.  Diagnostic tests are often inconclusive (x-rays and scans such as MRIs and CAT scans do not show damage to soft tissues,  which often contribute to cervicogenic headaches).

In order to properly diagnose and treat a cervicogenic headache,  your medical provider must first determine that your pain is definitely referred from your neck.  This can be done with a physical examination (which will determine exactly where your pain is coming from,  and what neck movements trigger your headaches). Other tests may include a diagnostic anesthetic blockade, combined with additional diagnostic tests.

Cervicogenic Headaches After Automobile Accidents

CEH Six Years After Whiplash Injury – According to a large study of cervicogenic headaches after car accident and from whiplash injuries  (Department of Neurosurgery, Ullevaal University Hospital, Oslo, Norway), current imaging techniques and electrophysiological tests are not usually able to show the neck damage that causes cervicogenic headaches.  This is a significant finding for victims of automobile accidents, especially victims of low-speed automobile accidents.

Victims of low-speed automobile accidents may not suffer “obvious” trauma as a result of an automobile accident.  For example, they may not lose consciousness as a result of their crash or suffer any broken bones.  They may not even suffer visible bumps or bruises.  But that does not necessarily mean they were not injured in the crash

Soft Tissue Injuries

Soft tissue is the connective tissue that holds our bones in place and helps maintains their proper alignment.  If the delicate soft tissues that hold our bones in place is being damaged in an automobile accident, it can cause long-term health problems.  Even low-speed automobile accidents (accidents which occur at speeds under 5 mph) have been shown to cause damage to soft tissues and may lead to lasting injury or damage that does not readily show up on radiographic or x-ray studies.

Injuries to soft tissue,  especially injury to the delicate soft tissue of the cervical spinal area,  are often sustained by victims of low-speed automobile accidents when neck flexion and extension causes microtears,  irritation or damage to soft tissues in the cervical area.  But these soft tissue injuries are notoriously difficult to ‘see’ on conventionally available diagnostic x-rays and scans and are often missed by medical providers (especially ER doctors,  who are trained to look for more obvious signs of trauma).

Victims of low-speed automobile accidents may suffer damage to soft tissues as a result of their automobile accident,  but often show no obvious signs of physical trauma.  This is why it’s vitally important to contact an experienced personal injury attorney immediately after an automobile accident.

Cervicogenic headaches are just one example of “invisible” injuries that may occur after a low-speed automobile accident.  Headaches after an automobile accident occur immediately following the accident,  or they may show up days, weeks or months after the accident occurred. Doctors and patients may miss or dismiss these symptoms (“I’m fine,  I don’t even have a bruise!”).  This is one reason why it is extremely wise to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney after an automobile accident. Don’t gamble with your well-being; your long-term health and ability to live a productive and active life are too precious and valuable.  If you have been injured in an automobile accident,  let the Maine personal injury attorneys at Hardy, Wolf and Downing assess your case, and help you get the just and fair compensation you deserve.