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Issue 1.08 Official Magazine of Law Offices of Richard J. Serpe, PC

Newsletter

serpefirm.com

Traumatic Brain Injury Awareness

IN THIS ISSUE 30 WRECKED

WHY TRACY MORGAN’S ACCIDENT COULD HAPPEN TO ANY OF US

FOOTBALL HEAD INJURES RAISE THE QUESTION

WOULD YOU LET YOUR CHILDREN PLAY FOOTBALL? TRUSTS PROTECT TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY SURVIVORS

$3.5 Million

SETTLEMENT FOR MARITIME ACCIDENT VICTIM WITH TBI

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30 Wrecked

Why Tracy Morgan’s Accident Could Happen to Any of Us

RICHARD SERPE,

a Virginia brain injury lawyer, has established an extraordinary reputation for helping Virginia brain injury victims. If you or a loved one is suffering from the effects of a brain injury caused by someone else’s negligence, you can be sure that your case will be handled with the respect, dedication and urgency that it deserves.

Contact RICHARD SERPE 877-544-5323 VirginiaBrainInjury.com

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Comedian Tracy Morgan was at the top of his game when a tractor-trailer struck his vehicle last year. Suddenly, a successful television and stand up career was rendered impossible: a brain injury had left Morgan incapacitated. More than a year later, the Saturday Night Live veteran is still walking with a cane and “fighting to be back to the Tracy Morgan he once was.”

T

RAGICALLY, ACCIDENTS LIKE THIS ARE FAR TOO COMMON. Tractor-trailers are such large vehicles; they nearly always overpower smaller cars, SUVs and motorcycles they crash into. Passengers in those vehicles are vulnerable to being tossed around the car, smashed into wind-

shields, or being pinned inside the wrecked car. Head injuries are common in these kinds of crashes, which often result in traumatic brain injuries. BRAIN INJURIES ARE OFTEN DIFFICULT TO UNDERSTAND, as patients may not have vis-

ible scars from the accident. Some victims may not even immediately notice symptoms of a traumatic brain injury. Such injuries can be more dramatic than other bodily injuries, however. There are no prosthetics that can replace a damaged part of a brain. There are no easy answers when it comes to treating brain injuries – in fact, doctors are still researching how to best care for their patients’ injured brains. THE TRACTOR-TRAILER DRIVER responsible for Morgan’s accident had reportedly been awake for more than 24 hours at the time of the crash. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administra-

Traumatic Brain Injury Awareness Newsletter | Law Offices of Richard J. Serpe, PC – Attorney Advertising


”I just don’t feel like myself.” Have you seen our new brain injury video on YouTube? Check it out:

http://tinyurl.com/SerpeBrainInjury

tion has created regulations for the maximum driving time for tractor-trailer drivers. Unfortunately, cargo records frequently prove that drivers indeed drive many more hours than legally permitted. This results in fatigue that can cause serious accidents. Some drivers even turn to drugs and alcohol to deal with the long hours, which only exacerbates the dangers associated with tractor-trailers. POORLY MAINTAINED TRUCKS, MISSING SAFETY EQUIPMENT AND TRUCKS CARRYING EXCESSIVE LOADS CAUSE OTHER ACCIDENTS. The trucking industry is highly regulated, with limits on the length, width and heights of cargo being transported on tractortrailers. Too often, though, these rules are disregarded in favor of large, sometimes uncontrollable loads. Such trucks often become unmanageable, particularly when speed is involved. Add in factors like weather, traffic and fatigue and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. EVEN WITH THE BEST TREATMENTS AVAILABLE, Morgan’s brain will never be the same as it once was. It may make him more vulnerable to ear-

Most people with a concussion have one or more of the symptoms listed below and recover fully within days, weeks or a few months. But for some people, symptoms of concussion can last even longer. Generally, if you feel that “something is not quite right,” or if you are feeling “foggy,”you should talk with your doctor.

Concussion symptoms are often grouped into four categories, including:

ly-onset Alzheimer’s, inhibit motor functions and even prevent the comedian from memorizing his famous stand-up routines. Morgan’s career in Hollywood may indeed be over. MORGAN’S LAWYERS ARE FIGHTING a personal injury claim against Walmart, the company for whom the at-fault truck driver was working. In spite of what financial responsibility the company might take, nothing can restore victims’ brain to its healthy state. Whatever the outcome of cases like Morgan’s, lives can change dramatically following a serious brain injury. Careers and relationships may end. Dreams may die. THE PUBLICITY SURROUNDING the Morgan accident may provide a silver lining – others suffering from TBI may find hope in his likely successful suit against Walmart. Patients around the country depend on compensation to receive the best treatment possible. With Morgan as the new face of the TBI community, more awareness is raised by his high profile case.

THINKING / REMEMBERING Difficulty thinking clearly Feeling slowed down Difficulty concentrating Difficulty remembering new information

PHYSICAL Headache Nausea or vomiting (early on) Balance problems Dizziness Fuzzy or blurry vision Feeling tired, having no energy Sensitivity to noise or light

EMOTIONAL/ MOOD

SLEEP DISTURBANCE

Irritability Sadness More emotional Nervousness or anxiety

Sleeping more than usual Sleeping less than usual Trouble falling asleep

Source: Centers For Disease Control and Prevention CDC.gov

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Football Head Injuries Raise the Question:

Would You Let Your Children Play Football? We’ve all probably had a similar football experience. It’s Saturday night at the local high school football field. It’s chilly outside, but the score is close and excitement is high. The hike is called and both teams team jump into action. Players collide and a whistle is blown. Most of the players are up, but the audience holds its breath and waits for one last student to rise. The student eventually returns to his feet, and everything seems fine for the moment. The crowd sighs in relief and the game continues. However, recent research indicates that brutal hits like those may have long term effects that might make us question whether or not we should be allowing our children to play football. 04 \\

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LAYING ON THE FOOTBALL TEAM can be an important part of a student’s high school experience. However, worries about the physical nature of football are causing parents and students to second guess the wisdom of allowing their children to be involved in the sport. Some of the concern comes in the wake of a recent NFL settlement with 5,000 former players. Research conducted during the case indicated that nearly 1/3 of NFL players will develop dementia, Alzheimer’s or other neurobiological damage. Witnessing the harm done to NHL players, some have begun to investigate the health effects of football in the high school arena. So far, the results have not been encouraging. A recent Times Magazine article titled “The Tragic Risk of An American Obsession” reported that football has the highest percentage of dangerous impacts in high school -- 43% more than the second place woman’s soccer. Most disturbingly, these accidents have in some cases resulted in death. The story of a young Virginia student may fall into this tragic category. The student was going for a tackle in the middle of a football game and ended up colliding helmet to helmet with another student. He received medical attention on the sidelines, but fell unconscious and began to have seizures. He died on the way to the hospital that night. A few days later, medical examiners pronounced him dead as a result of blunt force head injury. In some cases, states have passed laws capping the number of hours of contact allowed per high school football team. Still, experts quoted by the Times Magazine article point to having an ambulance and trained staff on hand as the best way to mitigate the results of these incidents. In particular, sports trainers are critical links in the chain of making sure that students are properly treated after major trauma to the head. Unfortunately, ambulances and train-

Traumatic Brain Injury Awareness Newsletter | Law Offices of Richard J. Serpe, PC – Attorney Advertising


PREVENTION IS THE ONLY CURE FOR A BRAIN INJURY. A brain injury can happen to anyone, anywhere, at any time. Quite often, a TBI is caused by an accident that could have been prevented. For more information on brain injury prevention visit www.biausa.org

ers are not required at football events at some schools. Schools say that costs prohibit them from attaining these safety measures.

firm has assisted over 200 young brain injury victims over the last 20 years to reach their best possible recovery after their brain injury.

Virginia is not the only place that has experienced the death of a high school student as the result of a football head injury. Recently, a New Jersey family settled a case for 2.8 million dollars in a case involving their son’s death as a result of a football game. As this controversy continues to expand, it remains unclear what future steps will be taken to protect high school athletes. In the meantime, the question remains: knowing what we know now, should we continue to allow our children to participate in playing football?

If you are interested in obtaining a copy of our other sports-related brain injury publications, email info@serpefirm. com for your free copy.

The risk of long term complications from concussions goes up dramatically when an athlete has suffered multiple concussions and when inadequate recovery time is allowed before “getting back in the game.” Athletic programs generally do an excellent job of teaching and protecting young athletes. Occasionally, however, dangerous decisions are made that result in real and lasting harm. TBI for young victims presents real and complex challenges for diagnosis and treatment to minimize the effects in future function. Our

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$3.5 Million

SETTLEMENT FOR MARITIME ACCIDENT VICTIM WITH TBI

IT STARTED OUT LIKE ANY OTHER DAY ON THE WATER FOR ELGIN “EDDIE” STODGHILL, A 39 YEAR OLD TANKERMAN ABOARD A BARGE HEADING UP THE JAMES RIVER TO UNLOAD FUEL AT A RICHMOND TERMINAL. PULLING ALONGSIDE THE DOCK THAT AUGUST DAY, EDDIE COULD NEVER HAVE IMAGINED HOW DRASTICALLY HIS LIFE WAS ABOUT TO CHANGE.

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life altering injury accountable for their negligence. The insurance companies refused for four long years to pay Eddie just compensation, despite his devastating injuries. During offloading operations on the vessel, Eddie was required to adjust fuel lines, which were suspended by cables raised and lowered by a boom and winch. Due to a series of management and maintenance errors, the equipment had become extremely dangerous, although not in a manner that would be obvious to the naked eye. During the operations, the winch failed dropping the heavy equipment on Eddie, fracturing his skull and causing a severe brain injury. Eddie was taken via ambulance to the Medical College of Virginia for an emergency craniotomy and was diagnosed with a fractured wrist, comminuted skull fracture, and intraparanchymal hemorrhage (bleeding in his brain.) Due to Eddie’s traumatic brain injury, he faced a very long road toward recovery, and sought help in holding the companies responsible for his

Eddie was considered a longshoreman, and faced special challenges in bringing a claim against the vessel owner. Maritime law presents unique procedures and substantive law that requires substantial experience to undertake. Richard Serpe obtained an advanced degree in maritime law (after graduating from law school) to enable him to assist maritime victims. After years of negotiating with multiple insurance carriers to exhaust all available polices available to Eddie, his attorneys were able to secure a $3,500,000.00 settlement for him. Facing long-term significant physical, emotional, and cognitive challenges, our firm assisted Eddie in setting up a financial plan that would carry him through the rest of his life, assuring he would live comfortably and have access to the best care going forward to treat his traumatic brain injury.

Traumatic Brain Injury Awareness Newsletter | Law Offices of Richard J. Serpe, PC – Attorney Advertising


TRUSTS PROTECT

Traumatic Brain Injury Survivors

Advocacy Wealth Management’s Thomas Johnson explains Trust services designed to conserve settlement funds. Nearly all survivors of a serious injury have special needs, perhaps none more so than those with a traumatic brain injury (TBI). Some of the challenges that present themselves both to the injured person with a TBI and to the injured person’s family are: GAPS IN KNOWLEDGE OR MEMORY; UNPREDICTABLE BEHAVIOR INCLUDING IMPULSIVENESS AND RAGE; PREDATORY RELATIVES OR “FRIENDS”; INABILITY TO MANAGE ACTIVITIES OF DAILY LIVING. At Advocacy Wealth Management, we believe that it is crucial to understand the family dynamics around all of our injured clients. For a person with TBI, in particular, we want to have a clear answer as to whether our injured client needs protection from himself, family, or friends. In our practice, the answer is almost always yes.

Given that our client may live a very long life, our role then becomes to protect and conserve his or her settlement so that it can enhance the client’s quality of life, for life. In many cases, we will recommend that a trust be included in the overall settlement plan with language in the trust document that protects the client from himself, family, and friends. If public benefits, such as Medicaid, are paying for custodial care and ongoing medical needs, we will likely recommend a Special Needs Trust (SNT). An SNT can hold the settlement funds for the well-being of the injured while preserving the benefits Medicaid offers over the injured person’s lifetime. Upon the termination of the trust either during life or upon death, Medicaid has first claim on any assets that remain in the trust up to the total amount of Medicaid benefits paid to care for the injured person during life. Another kind of trust we recommend, if an SNT is not warranted, is an irrevocable asset protection trust. We usually recommend Tennessee, which has excellent laws that protect trust assets against creditors (and predators), as the situs for an asset protection trust. When settlement funds are placed in this kind of trust, money can only be distributed under the terms and conditions in the trust document. Those terms and

conditions allow the trust officer to say ”no” to the beneficiary, when necessary, which empowers the beneficiary to say “no” to family and friends. TBI survivors can be challenging to serve due to the effects of their injuries. At Advocacy, we have highly trained and very experienced trust officers, planners and family office representatives to guide the injured person when making decisions. We consider the client’s best interests at all times first and how the trust is designed to protect our client. We help our clients obtain shelter, locate transportation, settle their debts, improve their credit, and live within a budget. We

Richard Serpe is a member and supporter of the Brain Injury Association of Virginia. For more information about their services visit www.biav.net. design income- producing portfolios that conserve settlement funds while serving the special needs of that client. Advocacy’s commitment to our client is for life.

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580 East Main Street, Suite 310, Norfolk, VA 23510

www.serpefirm.com

Traumatic Brain Injury Awareness Newsletter

Issue 1.08

SETTLEMENTS & CASES OF INTEREST

$3.5 Million

Retired Navy merchant seaman Traumatic Brain Injury Settlement

$1.5 Million

Verdict for Brain Damaged Child in Portsmouth, Virginia

Richard Serpe he has brought justice and fair treatment to those whose lives have been altered by a brain injury for over 29 years. Contact Richard Serpe to discuss your legal rights. DISCLAIMER

580 East Main Street, Suite 310, Norfolk, VA 23510

All cases are different and the results of one case cannot be used as an indication of what our firm may obtain for a similar case.

info@serpefirm.com www.serpefirm.com

Phone 757.233.0009 08 \\

Toll-Free 877.544.5323

Traumatic Brain Injury Awareness Newsletter | Law Offices of Richard J. Serpe, PC – Attorney Advertising

Traumatic Brain Injury Newsletter - Law Offices of Richard J. Serpe, PC  

In this issue: Why Tracy Morgan's Accident Could Happen to Any of Us, Football Head Injuries Raise the Question: Would you let your children...

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