In 2003, my partners and I had come to a fork in the road. We were ready to strike out on our own and start a law firm, but before we opened our doors, we had to decide what kind of firm we would be – what we as a firm would stand for.
We could have chosen to work with an insurance defense firm. It was the safer decision for sure, but each of us would have had to take on dozens of cases at a time. We would have needed a contingent of paralegals to help us with the large workload and we would have had to take whatever cases were handed to us.
When you call a large, heavily advertised plaintiff’s firm, you’ll usually reach a call center, not a lawyer. At a high volume firm, associates are responsible for anywhere from 100 to 150 cases at a time. To keep up with the excessive workload, each associate has a team of paralegals. The burden of research and client communication is foisted onto paralegals. With such a large caseload, it’s impossible for an attorney to devote himself to any case for a significant amount of time.
My partners and I enjoy our work as trial lawyers. All three of us have spent our entire careers working on catastrophic injury and death cases. We’re passionate about what we do and the clients and families we serve.
With the confidence of youth and our convictions, we decided to open Cash, Krugler and Fredericks as a firm that would dedicate itself to a small number of the most serious cases.
Ten years on, our philosophy hasn’t changed. We’re still a relatively small firm and we don’t take nearly as many cases as our counterparts. We are not, and will never be, a “volume” firm. At any given time, my partners and I are working on only five to ten cases. We won’t overextend ourselves – our goal is to provide personalized service and get the result each case deserves, not pump up statistics by taking hundreds of cases at a time.
Our associates take only 15 to 20 cases at a time. Like my partners and me, they believe that each client deserves professional, personal service. Larger, more intensive cases are assigned to two partners and an associate.
Regardless of the size of the case, our firm commits manpower and significant resources to each case. As soon as we take your case, we start the process of gathering evidence and supporting documents, interviewing witnesses, and filing cases before evidence is destroyed or lost. Every case we take is a “front burner” case.
Our intention is to know each case well and take full ownership of them. When we head to trial, we know each case like the back of our hand. We won’t be outworked. By keeping our caseload selective and small, we’re able to give our cases our undivided attention, constantly researching and working until our clients are awarded fair compensation.
In hindsight, our decision to run Cash, Krugler and Fredericks as a small, selective firm was a risky one. Today, we’re glad we took the risk. We’re proud of our work and our firm. I can speak confidently for my fellow partners and myself when I say we wouldn’t change a thing.
— Andy Cash
The days following a major traumatic brain injury are the beginning of what can be a long, sometimes never-ending path to recovery. Our brains are delicate and intricate and how a traumatic brain injury affects someone is unpredictable. No two injuries are alike.
Individuals who suffer a TBI, along with their families, need support in the days, months and years following their injury. Traumatic brain injuries affect the injured individual physically and emotionally. TBIs can affect the way the person thinks, acts or feels for a long time after their accident.
Adjusting to new circumstances is a process that takes time. Recovery is easier when you have a community of support and understanding from people who’ve been there before you.
We have seen firsthand the difficulties of people living with brain injuries. In court, we’ve fought for individuals living with traumatic brain injury after an accident.
Each of our cases involves exhaustive research and the more we learned about the realities our clients and others like them face, the more we felt compelled to help. Our firm is dedicated to giving back to organizations that help our clients. We’ve been proud to support the Side by Side Brain Injury Clubhouse.
The Side by Side Clubhouse in Atlanta is one of around 300 Clubhouses across the nation. The Clubhouses are a model of care and community founded in 1948. Originally, the Clubhouses were groups of people with psychiatric disabilities who came together to support one another. Since 1948, the Clubhouse model has expanded to include individuals with various disabilities.
Side by Side operates one Clubhouse dedicated to individuals living with brain injuries. The Brain Injury Clubhouse in Stone Mountain is a place where adults with an acquired brain injury can work with each other and alongside trained staff.
In the Clubhouse, people with brain injuries are surrounded by a tight-knit community of support while they work toward measurable goals, including the day-to-day operations of the clubhouse. If individuals wish to learn work skills and find a job in the community, Side by Side can help.
For some families, caring for a loved one after a severe traumatic brain injury becomes a full-time job. The Side by Side Clubhouse provides a safe, supportive space for people with TBI to exercise independence and give caretakers a break.
It also provides a unique rehabilitative space. Side by Side values dignity and inclusion of individuals with brain injury. Their organization recognizes the importance of independence and seeks to support and empower its members.
Perhaps the strongest value of Side by Side (and other Clubhouses like it) is its emphasis on relationships. Since the beginning, the organization has striven to be a group that exemplifies community. The best possible quality of life for people with brain injuries is achieved when they have access to medical, physical, social, financial and vocational resources.
Lives are changed (sometimes dramatically) after a traumatic brain injury, but life goes on. Living with a TBI doesn’t mean the end of meaningful work, however you define it. Community support makes it possible for individuals to enjoy a better quality and fulfilled life.
The care, support and treatment a traumatic brain injury sometimes requires are not cheap. For some, it will never be affordable. Everyone deserves compassionate care.
Through donations, Side by Side is able to welcome a limited number of members, regardless of their ability to pay. With grant money from the Wounded Warrior project, Side by Side is able to provide service, free of charge, to men and women injured on active duty after September 11, 2001 who live with a brain injury.
To learn more about the incredible opportunities created by Side by Side, or to donate to its worthy cause, please visit sidebysideclubhouse.org.
— Andy Cash, Alwyn Fredericks, Dave Krugler
I played AAA level hockey growing up and am currently a certified coach. I still currently play in a men’s league and my youngest son plays at the AA level. We love hockey and more people are joining us in our love of the sport. USA Hockey, the national governing body for hockey in America, found that the 2013-2014 season was the most successful year yet. There were 519,417 amateur players with memberships across the nation last year. Including coaches and officials, membership is close to 600,000.
Hockey is a popular school sport, especially up north where the weather gets cold enough to play on outdoor rinks. Young men and women give their all on the ice and reap many benefits from doing so. But like football, hockey comes with the risk of injury and concussion. As we’ve said before, there is no such thing as a minor injury to the brain.
No matter what age we are, we’re all at risk of concussion in sports. We’re trying our hardest to win and we get aggressive. (Canada has begun a campaign to combat the overly violent culture in hockey, citing unsafe conditions and injury to players.)
Still, the most vulnerable group in sports are our younger players. High schoolers, especially, are at risk. Perhaps it’s the invincibility of youth. The bravado of “shaking it off” and ignoring when something is wrong. This is why coaches, officials and parents must be familiar with the signs and symptoms of concussion. They must also err on the side of caution. Concussions and other traumatic brain injuries can be hard to diagnose – the symptoms are subtle and nonspecific most of the time.
Recently, the focus on safety has increased. We’re in the midst of a national debate about safety. We recognize more than ever that concussions are not benign – they have long-lasting, degenerative effects.
The National Hockey League instituted new rules in the 2010-2011 season, making bodychecking with the head as the main point of contact illegal. Concussions and injury rates, unfortunately, did not go down.
How can we make hockey safer? To start, we all have to educate ourselves and our young athletes about the severity of concussions. We have to take vicious bodychecking out of the equation. There’s a difference between separating someone from the puck and going after a headshot.
Improving safety while maintaining the competitive spirit of sport can be accomplished. Education about concussions must be one of the primary goals for players, parents, coaches and officials. Working in concert, we can take care of one another while playing the sports we love.
The NHL Statement on Concussions in Sports
— Alwyn Fredericks
In recent posts, we’ve referred to the series that aired on FOX-5 after we alerted investigative reporter Dana Fowle to the dangers many home elevators can pose to children.
We have been actively involved in getting the word out about the potential dangers of home elevators after representing the Helvey family, whose son Jacob was tragically injured in a home elevator accident on Christmas Eve, 2010.
Although we settled the Helvey case last year, we will continue our involvement in this issue until this dangerous situation is remedied.
After we contacted Dana, she produced the first video that focused on the Helveys. Dana continued her investigation and produced a five-part series on the dangers and efforts the state of Georgia is making to make them safer. Sadly, children continue to be severely injured in totally preventable elevator accidents.
We thank Dana for her focus on the safety issue of home elevators. Please view these videos and be aware of the danger. While you may not have an elevator in your home, your children may visit a home that has one. Or you may rent a beach home that has one, as another family did at Myrtle Beach. Their young son suffered catastrophic injuries in that elevator last Thanksgiving during a family reunion.
These accidents do not have to and should not continue to happen. Please help us spread the word.
Here is the full, five-part series:
Part 1 is the video that focuses on the Helvey family, Jacob’s injury and their day-to-day lives now, caring for him after his catastrophic brain injuries.
The first report on the Helveys accident was so alarming, it prompted action from the state. In this second part, Dana spoke with Georgia State Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens about his plans to improve safety of home elevators.
Dana reported that the Insurance Commissioner sent out a letter marked Urgent! to 9,000 homeowners alerting them to the dangers of home elevators. Until she brought it to his attention, Ralph Hudgins had not ever heard of the deaths and injuries that had occurred in home elevators.
Dana called home elevators a potential “death trap for children” and spoke with John Koshak, an industry safety expert we had hired to consult on the Helvey case. He believes Georgia needs to tighten the residential elevator code to prevent more injuries to children.
Thanks to Dana Fowle and her reports on FOX-5, the insurance and fire safety commissions are proposing changes that they hope will “make Georgia a trendsetter in elevator safety.”
-Andy Cash, Alwyn Fredericks, Dave Krugler
When tragedy strikes, we’re sometimes forced to quickly transition from shock to action. Communities and families set about mending what can be mended and reconstructing their lives in new circumstances. Personal misfortune often leads to a fierce resolve to create change – we don’t want others to suffer as we have.
For Brandi and Michael Helvey, their son’s life-altering residential elevator accident was the beginning of their advocacy. Jacob Helvey was an inquisitive, increasingly independent toddler.
A flaw in the design of the home’s residential elevator left enough space for the young boy to get stuck between the inner and outer doors. In an instant, Jacob was grievously injured. He suffered catastrophic and permanent brain damage and will require around the clock care for the rest of his life.
The flaw in the Helvey’s residential elevator is not unique. In Georgia alone, there are over 900 elevators in use with the same dangerous design. The Helveys decided to share their story. They never want another child or family to suffer as they did.
With the help of a determined investigative reporter, Dana Fowle, they were able to share their story with thousands of Georgians. The five-part series that aired on FOX-5 got the attention of Georgia Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens.
Thanks to the Helvey’s story and Dana’s piece, the state sent an urgent letter warning Georgians with elevators in their homes of the danger posed to children. Changes to our state’s safety code followed.
At its best, journalism serves the public interest. By amplifying the voices of everyday people with stories that need to be told, the media can set the stage for change.
Our society is indebted to journalists who live by the highest standards of their profession and seek to highlight injustice and inequality. Dana Fowle’s series earned her a much-deserved Emmy. She gave it to the Helveys.
Sadly, the dangers still exist. Since Jacob’s accident, other children have been injured. Moving past their own tragedy, the Helveys are still determined to share their story. Together, they work to make changes to protect children like their son.
Our firm notified Dana Fowle of Fox-5 of the danger of certain home elevators, like the one that severely Jacob Helvey on Christmas Eve, 2010. She produced a five-part video series on elevator safety and won an Emmy for her reporting. She gave it to the Helveys.
-Andy Cash, Alwyn Fredericks, Dave Krugler
At Cash, Krugler and Fredericks, we represent families whose entire lives changed in an instant when unsafe elevators injured their children. These stories are devastating and as a result of what we’ve learned while representing these families, we’ve become so passionate about elevator safety that we traveled to Washington, D.C. to present evidence to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. We’ve seen the effects of entirely avoidable elevator tragedies and we will continue to work to prevent them.
We keep a close eye on elevator accidents. They occur more often than most of the public realizes. The simple function of an elevator – conveying passengers between floors – belies the complex machinery and design that goes into an elevator. Improperly maintained elevators are a recipe for disaster. The injuries sustained during a serious elevator accident can be severe and life-long.
This month, investigators in Istanbul found three instances of negligence that likely contributed to the death of ten construction workers. The workers were on site at a planned residential high rise when catastrophe struck. The elevator they were riding in crashed to the ground from the 32nd floor.
So far, investigators have found several preventable reasons for the deadly crash.
Stoppers, small but crucial pieces of the elevator’s mechanism, were missing. The stoppers would have kept the elevator attached to guide rails on high floors had they been in place. And the elevator was used to transport workers and materials, but did not have the required parachute system in place. (The parachute system is another mechanism designed to protect passengers.)
Elevators are complex machines. On a construction site, their operation isn’t as simple as pressing a button. A qualified, experienced crewmember should be in charge of their operation. On the site in Istanbul, novice construction workers were put in charge of elevator operation. The day of the accident, a worker who had been on the site for only five days was operating the elevator.
Ten families have lost beloved members. Ten families are in mourning because of callous disregard for safety. Our hearts go out to them.
-Andy Cash, Alwyn Fredericks, Dave Krugler
When you or a loved one has suffered a personal injury after an accident, it can be hard to make sense of an increasingly complex legal system. It’s all too easy to be taken advantage of. Here’s what you need to know.
When do I need a lawyer?
As soon as possible, if not immediately.
The investigation into your injury needs to start early. The evidence surrounding your case needs to be preserved. Real life doesn’t resemble the popular law and order dramas on television. Essential evidence goes missing all the time.
Sometimes, evidence is simply misplaced, never to be seen again. Evidence is sometimes intentionally “misplaced.” A good law firm will collect and preserve the evidence you’ll need to prove your claims. Letters can go out early on to interested parties insisting that they preserve any evidence in their possession.
As the injured party, you are entitled to certain rights and protections, but these need to be established as soon as possible. The parties you may later face in court are trying to make a case, too, and will often attempt to speak with you. (These parties include insurance companies and their agents as well as employees of corporations that committed misdeeds.) Your future adversaries will try to take statements in the hopes of using them against you or your family at a later date.
Your law firm will work to protect your interests. They will advise you about what is and is not appropriate so you don’t get taken advantage of. Your attorney will make it clear to the opposing parties that you are represented by counsel. The firm will keep the parties from contacting you again. Failing that, they’ll make sure you know what to do when they try.
What can I do to help my case?
Start by documenting and photographing important evidence. This step can be harder than it sounds. The victim and the family are already dealing with the fallout of the injury, including treatment and recovery and navigating medical bills and expenses. Lost time at work and the stress of the event means you focus your energy where it’s most needed: on the victim. In the midst of concern for our loved ones, we’re not worrying about a future trial.
This is one reason you should call an attorney as soon as possible. My firm uses professionals that specialize in documenting evidence for use at trial. The professionals we work with can be at the scene or in the hospital within 24 hours to ensure that evidence (including photographs and recordings of injuries, damage to vehicles and accident sites) is properly preserved.
Don’t talk to the at-fault party’s insurance company or their adjustors. After an auto or trucking accident, especially, they will tell you they “must speak to you” in order to set up the claim. Under no circumstances should you discuss the incident or anything else with these individuals. Their job is to save the insurance company money. Essentially, their job is to discredit you.
Equally important to discussing your case with your own lawyers is your refusal to sign anything without first consulting your legal counsel. Insurance companies and others will attempt to get you to sign releases or waivers without fully explaining what the documents are. A good rule of thumb after an accident is to never sign anything without allowing your lawyer to look over it first.
Don’t sign hire any lawyers that contact you. Most reputable lawyers do not solicit clients. If you want a good lawyer, ask around and you someone will refer you to some attorneys. When interviewing your attorney, ask him or her if they litigate the cases themselves and how many cases they have tried to verdict. This will give you an indication about whether you are hiring counsel that can take your case through to trial if need be.
Finally, don’t try to negotiate yourself. Insurance companies have vast resources and legal counsel at their disposal. Almost without exception, insurance companies will not pay the full value of your case until an attorney is involved. You need experienced counsel in your corner who will thoroughly evaluate the extent of your past and future damages.
Negotiating on your own before you hire an attorney can hurt your case in several ways. If you don’t have an attorney, the insurance company will offer less than you deserve and tell you that’s the only offer they can make. If you negotiate yourself, the insurance company may be given access to information that it should not have been provided. The company will try to discover what you think your case is worth, not what a thorough, fair evaluation will determine after studying the nature of your injuries and the misconduct of the at-fault party.
The days after an injury are disorienting, but there are professionals trained to help in situations like these. When you or a loved one has been injured, hiring an experienced law firm can shift some of the burden from your shoulders.
As the weather mercifully starts to edge towards fall, my family and I are enjoying the weather and getting ready for a big walk. No, we’re not planning to tackle the Appalachian Trail – we’re preparing to participate in the 2014 Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Walk on October 18th.
The JDRF strives to improve the current treatment of Type 1 diabetes and to one day find a cure. Juvenile diabetes (now referred to as Type 1 diabetes) is usually diagnosed in children and young adults. Individuals with Type 1 diabetes cannot produce insulin, the hormone responsible for converting sugar, starches and other foods into the energy our bodies need to survive.
Less than 100 years ago, diabetes was a death sentence. Children diagnosed with the disease typically lived less than a year. Unable to treat the disease properly, diabetics wasted away – either from the “starvation diets” prescribed by doctors or from the disease itself. Families of diabetics could only watch as their loved ones suffered, sometimes only for a few months.
In 1921, insulin was discovered. You can read about the Nobel Prize winning scientists’ research here. Diabetics who had been close to death were given insulin created using the pancreas of a cow. They improved quickly, regaining weight, their appetites and their energy.
My wife and I hold the JDRF’s mission close to our hearts. Both of our sons have Type 1 diabetes. Our eldest, Gavin, was diagnosed at age 3. Our youngest, Liam, was diagnosed at age 8. While diabetes is no longer a death sentence, it still is not a simple condition to manage.
Those of us without diabetes should marvel for a moment at all that our pancreas does for us every day. Insulin is released at the right moment, in the right amount, at the moment we need it to get to work. This ensures our blood sugar stays in a healthy range. My sons, and children like them, must constantly monitor their blood sugar. This requires ten or more finger pricks each day. If their blood sugar is high or low, they must correct it either with a shot of insulin or a food high in glucose.
We’re so grateful for the research and advancements to date, but we will continue to work for more. People with diabetes never get a break – diabetes follows you to school, work, playing sports and while you’re sleeping. So we walk, together, in hopes of a cure.
This year, in honor of our son Gavin’s 10th year living with Type 1 diabetes, our team set a fundraising goal of $50,000. If you’d like to learn more about the JDRF, the walk or would like to participate, please visit JDRF Walk.
If you’d like to make a donation, please consider a tax-deductible donation to the Cash Boys Team. We’d be grateful for your support of JDRF and our family.
For all the amazing discoveries made about the human body, our brains are still a mystery. Our minds are as fascinating as they are frustrating to fully understand. This is especially true of brain injury.
Millions of traumatic brain injuries occur every year, but not every TBI is diagnosed as quickly as it should be. The symptoms are subtle and non-specific, so injured individuals sometimes don’t get the immediate treatment brain injury requires.
In recent years, the National Football League has come under fire for its treatment of head injury. For too long, a “mild” form of traumatic brain injury, the concussion, was brushed off. Many players were injured and then returned to the field too soon.
The danger of playing before you’ve fully recovered from a concussion cannot be understated. If a second impact occurs before an athlete is fully recovered the results can be catastrophic. “Second impact syndrome” causes brain swelling, which can lead to brain damage, paralysis or death.
To better diagnose and treat brain injury, more research is desperately needed. In an effort to understand brain injury better, Boston University’s Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy Center established the Brain Donation Registry in 2008. The center’s stated goal is to advance our understanding of trauma to the brain and spinal cord.
The Center asked former football players and members of the armed forces, two groups with a high risk of brain injury, to leave their brains and spinal cords to the center for study.
More than a dozen athletes, many professional football players, but not all, publicly announced their participation in the study in 2008. These athletes’ public commitment to the cause of understanding brain injury has inspired many others.
Last year, a young man named Michael Keck passed away from a heart condition. Before his death, Keck played two years of college football at Missouri State. At his first training camp in 2009, a concussion left him unconscious on the field. After his injury, Keck suffered headaches, memory and vision problems. His personality also began to change; he was moody, angry and sometimes depressed.
According to Keck’s wife, Cassandra, his conviction that something was wrong with his head was ignored.
‘He told one of the trainers there’s something wrong with his head. They gave him a concussion test and told him to count backward from 20 by threes,’ Cassandra Keck said according to an article on his death. “Some other players couldn’t do it, either. So they just said football players are dumb.”
Michael told his wife that if he passed away, he wanted his brain donated to the Boston University center. When he passed, that’s exactly what his wife did.
Last month, BU announced its findings. Michael Keck had severe chronic traumatic encephalopathy. CTE is a progressive degenerative disease of the brain found in those who suffer repeated brain trauma.
Typically, the worst cases of CTE are found in older individuals that have sustained years of trauma and continued deterioration as they age. (CTE has long been known to affect “punch drunk” boxers.) Keck played for only a short while and was too young for age to be blamed as the culprit for his advanced case.
My partners and I were saddened to learn of Michael Keck’s passing but inspired by his donation. We hope that the work of Boston University and other organizations like it continue to make advances in this vital area of study. Future generations of athletes, the armed forces and everyday people like the clients we represent will all be better served by the knowledge gained today.
To the relief of a lot of parents (and maybe a few kids) summer vacation has ended. With the smell of fresh notebooks and pencils in the air, our children have gone back to class. The swimming pools will be all but abandoned soon and kids will make their way to recess, after-school and weekend sports.
Playing sports is an important part of childhood. Whether the sport of choice is baseball, soccer, hockey, football or soccer, lessons about cooperation and teamwork are woven into every practice and game. Sports also require and demand dedication, a value that serves us well in adulthood. But the same dedication that keeps your son late at school for extra laps after football practice can encourage kids to ignore injury.
What begins as a small injury may be ignored until it’s a big problem requiring a lot of treatment. In the past, athletes have been encouraged to “walk it off.” Today, we’re much better at encouraging our active children to pay attention, take a break and heal. No injury should be ignored and head injuries, especially, must be taken seriously.
My partners and I are well acquainted with head injuries and the lasting physical and emotional damage they can cause. We represent the victims of traumatic brain injury – individuals whose lives have significantly changed after severe head injury. Although we work on the extreme end of the spectrum, we’ve learned that even mild knocks to the head can be serious.
The head injury most often sustained by child and teenage athletes is called a concussion. Each year, thousands of school-age athletes are treated for concussions. Concussions are a type of traumatic brain injury. What used to be referred to as “having your bell rung” is now recognized as a serious injury and should be treated as such. Before your kids get back into their sport of choice, be sure that you, your children and their coaches know the signs of a concussion.
In the last few years, public awareness of dangerous hits to the head has skyrocketed. We recognize the link between traumatic brain injury and sports and the potentially devastating consequences. Players in the NFL are vocal and actively trying to change league policy to ensure greater protections for their players. The large amount of media attention on brain injury and the NFL may cause some to assume that only football players are at risk, but that’s not the case.
High school football players suffer more head injuries than college players, though it’s not clear why. So if your son will be strapping on a helmet and pads this year, make sure he understands the implications of head injury.
Don’t forget, though, that just about any sport comes with the risk of head injury. Hockey, soccer, wrestling, basketball, lacrosse and volleyball players get concussed every year. And don’t think that boys are the only ones getting hurt – girls get plenty of concussions, too.
The CDCs “Heads Up” materials illuminate the signs of concussion for coaches. Parents and players are encouraged to read up on concussions and take them seriously. The free guide is tailored to high school athletes, but it’s a good read regardless of how old your children are.
Talk to your student athletes about the seriousness of concussions. Pushing yourself in a sport can lead to great triumphs and the pride of playing your heart out. But athletes must have a limit. If not treated with the respect it demands, a head injury can bench an athlete permanently.
As partners at Cash, Krugler and Fredericks, we have witnessed the effects of traumatic brain injuries many times over. No two cases are alike. The effects of a traumatic brain injury (TBI) can be long lasting and are as varied as the individuals that sustain them.
For those that suffer a severe TBI, the effects may last the rest of their lives. These may include impaired thinking, movement, hearing or speaking, as well as personality changes and struggles with depression. The physical and emotional toll of a traumatic brain injury affects the injured individuals along with their families and communities.
Traumatic brain injuries are a major cause of death and disability in the United States. Every year, millions of people visit the emergency room, are hospitalized or die in association with TBI. Even mild TBIs, which are the most common, can have profound consequences for patients and their families.
TBIs are caused by a bump, jolt or blow to the head. Falls are the most common cause of TBIs for middle-aged adults and young children. For 15 to 44 year olds, the most common cause of TBI is car accidents. Most TBIs are emergencies and require immediate medical attention. The earlier these injuries are diagnosed, the better the outcome. Without treatment, injuries to the brain can quickly worsen.
Even after decades of research, we are still learning a great deal about the complexity of our minds. The growing, but limited, knowledge of our brains and brain injuries presents unique litigation challenges in cases of traumatic brain injury. Often, individuals who suffer TBI are left with incomplete medical records – some initial medical records may not even mention head injury. So, in August we were thrilled to see a new development in the field of brain injury diagnosis.
Although experts agree that quick diagnosis is vital, the subtle and non-specific nature of many TBI symptoms makes them hard to recognize. Existing TBIs may not appear in a CT scan or an MRI; as a result, many TBIs go undiagnosed and untreated. The longer treatment is postponed, the more damage an injured brain may suffer.
In what we hope will be a fruitful collaboration, Chicago-based Abbott Laboratories and the Department of Defense have begun a multiyear partnership to develop a new diagnostic test for brain injury. During the next two years, Abbott will work to create a portable blood test. Following a brain injury, certain proteins (known as biomarkers) are released into the bloodstream. The tests will work in concert with the i-Stat, a handheld diagnostic device already in use by the US military for other purposes.
Brain injuries are a big concern for the armed forces. Since 2000, 30,000 troops have been diagnosed with TBIs. The majority of TBIs in the military are caused by non-combat assignments during training, accidents or because of illness. Quicker diagnosis will aid in removing injured soldiers from duty and preventing further injury.
For soldiers and civilians alike, quick diagnosis and appropriate treatment can lead to drastically better outcomes in some cases. Technology that proves a head injury occurred could further ensure that injured individuals get access to the compensation they deserve.
-Andy Cash, Dave Krugler, Alwyn Fredericks
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