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Although the weather is beginning to cool down around the country, diving remains a popular sport in Southern California.  Indeed, lobster diving takes place with frequency at this time of year.  However, fatal diving accidents occur too often, and many of these deadly accidents are preventable.  If you lost a loved one in a diving-related incident, you may be able to file a wrongful death claim.

Deadly Diving Accident Near Cfile000316008356atalina

According to a recent article in CBS’s KUTV2, a vacationing physician was recently identified as the victim of a deadly diving accident off the coast of Orange County.  The victim, Jared Royer, 40, was on a lobster-diving vacation with a group of other physicians.  Royer’s brother-in-law indicated that it was an annual trip, and Royer “was an experienced diver who had been on several similar trips with his colleagues in previous years,” according to a report in The Spectrum.  The group was diving in Emerald Bay late in the evening, and around 11p.m., the other physicians noticed that Royer had not returned to the boat.

Royer was an anesthesiologist, and he worked in the operating room and birthing center at a Southern Utah hospital.  In addition to his work and prior diving experience, he was an “accomplished triathlete” who had also run the Boston Marathon.

What happened off the coast of Orange County, then?  While autopsy results are pending, early indications suggest that Royer “may have run out of air and made a rapid ascent.”  The accident happened on the third day of Royer’s dive, and according to the other physicians in the group, he was in about 110 feet of water at the time of the incident.

Royer made it to the surface and called for help, but the other divers could not locate him afterward.  After nearly 70 hours in which search and rescue officials from Los Angeles County attempted to locate him, including the Los Angeles County Fire Department dive team, divers from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office, and the U.S. Coast Guard, Royer’s body was found nearly 100 feet underwater at around 11:30a.m.

Diving Accident Trend in Southern California

Since lobster season began on September 27th, Southern California has experienced a striking number of diving-related deaths.  While diving fatalities are more common among inexperienced divers or those with existing medical conditions, these dangerous accidents can happen to anyone.

As of October 2nd, five deaths were already been reported, according to Fox 5 San Diego.  Four of those deaths occurred at night during lobster-diving excursions, and one of the deaths resulted from a diver’s medical complications.  Royer was the fifth fatality reported in just about a week’s time.

What are the primary causes of diving fatalities?  According to statistics from the Diver’s Alert Network (DAN), the following represent the top three causes of death resulting from diving accidents:

  •      A pre-existing medical condition in the diver (such as a disease or other pathology);
  •      Poor buoyancy control;
  •      Rapid ascent or violent movement in the water.

While the overall risk of death during scuba diving is low (only 1 in every 211,000 divers suffers a fatal injury, according to the DAN), nighttime diving in Southern California can prove deadly.  If you lost a loved one in a diving accident, do not hesitate to contact an experienced San Diego wrongful death lawyer.  You may qualify for compensation.

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New Court Documents on NFL Brafile3091346979128in Injuries

Even after the NFL settlement related to concussions and traumatic brain injuries last summer, many former players are still not satisfied.  A current lawsuit accuses the NFL of “hiding information that linked concussions to brain injuries,” according to a recent story from ABC News.  In response to those accusations, the NFL filed documents suggesting that “NFL players are likely to suffer chronic brain injury at a significantly higher rate than the general population,” and “show neurocognitive impairment at a much younger age.”

What kinds of long-term symptoms do tackle football players experience?  According to the article, the following statistics concern rates for Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia:

  • Former NFL players between the ages of 50 and 59 develop Alzheimer’s and dementia “at rates 14 to 23 times higher than the general population in the same age range;”
  • Former NFL players between the ages of six and 64 are up to 35 times more likely than the general population to develop Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

In addition to developing these dangerous diseases more frequently than others, NFL players are also more likely to receive diagnoses at an earlier age.

Concussion Settlement and Compensation

Will all these players receive adequate compensation from the concussion settlement?  The court documents anticipate 3,488 former players making almost 6,700 claims for “payments related to brain injuries caused by playing football.”  Of the estimated claims, more than 90 percent are expected for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease, or dementia.  However, it is likely that a majority of the players are “ineligible for compensation before reaching age 80.”

Referring to the data, the former players question whether the settlement actually provides suitable coverage for sports-related brain injuries.  To be sure, the average player with Parkinson’s will only receive about $320,000, while the average player with Alzheimer’s will only get $340,000.  According to an attorney for the former players, that is “just utter nonsense.”

The NFL’s actuary report suggested even higher rates of dementia and Alzheimer’s for former players in all age groups.  According to the article, “players younger than 50 were at least eight times more likely to develop those diseases.”

Judge Brody is asking to see documentation about the settlement due to concerns that “not all qualifying players would be paid.”  What are the players hoping to get?  According to the article, players who were in the league for at least 5 years would be eligible for a plan that would pay up to $5 million for players with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease), up to $4 million for deaths resulting from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), $3.5 million for Alzheimer’s disease, and up to $3 million for “moderate dementia and other neurocognitive problems.”

While approximately 28 percent of all former players are expected to meet the eligibility requirements to receive this compensation, only about 60 percent of that group are actually likely to seek compensation, given their involvement in other class-action litigation, ABC News reported.

Do you have a loved one who sustained a sport-related concussion or other traumatic brain injury?  It is important to discuss your case with an experienced San Diego brain injury lawyer.  Contact the Walton Law Firm today to learn more about how we can assist you.

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Many Californians are wondering about the outcome of a ballot initiative to raise the damages cap in medical malpractice claims. If the proposed legislation goes through, California residents who sustain injuries because of medical negligence will be eligible to obtain up to $1.1 million in certain compensatory damages, as opposed to the current cap at $250,000. But what types of medical errors usually result in medical malpractice lawsuits?

Small and Underused Militarfile000850100179y Hospitals

According to a recent article in the New York Times, military hospitals that care for about 1.35 million active-duty service members and their families show “signals of failing in a system” of care.  What is wrong with these hospitals? Investigators for the New York Times identified two major issues.

The first issue was size. The hospitals are so small, and so few patients use them, that “it compromises the ability of doctors and nurses to capably diagnose and treat serious illnesses.”

The second issue was underuse. About two-thirds of military hospitals served only 30 patients or fewer per day in 2013, and many served 10 or fewer patients each day. To put this number in perspective, the highest number of inpatients is still “less than a third as many as the typical civilian hospital. That means about half the beds in these military hospitals remain vacant on a daily basis.

According to Dr. Lucian L. Leape, a patient safety expert at the Harvard School of Public Health, these hospitals “should be outlawed.” The Pentagon is planning to scale back on the military hospital system, thus encouraging patients who would otherwise enter the doors for surgery or treatment for a serious illness to visit a civilian hospital instead. What will happen to the hospitals? Many will be converted into outpatient clinics or birthing centers.

Medical Errors and High Rates of Patient Injury

The New York Times report emphasizes the serious problems these hospitals experience in relation to maternity patients and birth injuries or birth defects. The following birth injuries occur with much more frequently at military hospitals:

  • Trauma to the infant during birth: 95 percent higher risk at a military hospital than a civilian hospital;
  • Postpartum hemorrhage: 43 percent higher risk, on average, at a military hospital;
  • Shoulder dystocia and resulting harm in the infant: 40 percent high risk on average;
  • Maternal trauma with instruments: 22 percent higher risk at a military hospital than at a civilian hospital.

Birth-related injuries are not the only ones that patients are at risk for at military hospitals. The article also demonstrates higher rates of injury during even routine surgeries, such one to correct a hiatal hernia. Although more than 25,000 Americans undergo this surgery each year, one patient at military hospitals lost her stomach as a result of a medical error. Another example involves the six-year-old son of a Navy officer who suffered fatal injuries after receiving improper treatment at a California military hospital.

Some commentators suggest these high rates of injury are caused by a lack of training for young doctors at these facilities. Other suggest that limited financial resources are to blame.

If you or a loved one suffered personal injuries because of a medical professional’s negligence, it is important to talk with an experienced San Diego medical malpractice lawyer. Given the recent focus on raising the damages cap, you may be eligible to receive substantial compensation for your injuries.

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The Deadliest Year for the Hit-and-Run?

Have hit-and-run accidents become a serious problem in the San Diego area?  At the beginning of the summer, we told you about recent data suggesting that San Diego County is experiencing increasing incidents of deadly hit-and-run crashes.  By June of 2014, the California Highway Patrol (CHP) catalogued more than 17,000 of these dangerous collisions.  Those accidents resulted in 60 fatalities, and left more than 7,000 seriously injured.

Are pedestrian fatalities becoming the norm in Southern California?  According to a recent story from NBC San Diego, deadly hit-and-run accidents continue to happen in our area.

Marine Dies in Hit-and-Run Accident

The frightening trend surrounding hit-and-run accidents continued over the summer.  An active duty Marine suffered fatal injuries after he was struck by a box truck in Oceanside, California.  The 22-year-old Marine, Joseph Bizzarro, was riding his motorcycle when the truck hit the back of his bike.  Bizzarro “suffered major blunt head trauma,” while the “truck driver fled from the scene,” according to NBC San Diego.

The truck was identified as a “Bfile5051241612699udget Rental.” The driver attempted to make an illegal U-turn in front of the motorcyclist; after realizing the truck’s intended movement, Bizzarro was not able to stop in time.  Bizzarro was riding his bike to the military base when the accident occurred.

Emergency medical responders arrived on the scene the morning of the accident, and Bizzarro was airlifted to a local hospital, where he was placed on life support.  He died as a result of his injuries several hours later.

In Bizzarro’s case, the hit-and-run driver actually “changed his mind and returned to the scene,” according to Oceanside police.  The driver, Ezequiel Garcia, was arrested for a felony hit-and-run accident.  Later reports indicated that Garcia was driving on an expired driver’s license.

Bizzarro’s wife has mobilized members of the community to remember her husband and to seek justice.  In an interview with NBC San Diego, she emphasized that she wants Garcia to receive the maximum punishment for his role in the Marine’s death.

Hit-and-Run Laws in California

In California, an offender can be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony for a hit-and-run offense. Under the California Vehicle Code, one can be charged with a misdemeanor for leaving the scene of an accident without identifying one’s self to those involved in the crash, and if another person’s property sustained damage in the collision.

One can be charged with a felony hit-and-run offense for leaving the scene of an accident without identifying one’s self to those involved in the crash, and if another person sustains an injury, which can run from a minor injury to a fatality.  In other words, a misdemeanor hit-and-run offense deals with property damage, while a felony offense applies to situations where a person suffers an injury–the seriousness of the injury does affect the charge.

If you or a loved one has sustained injuries in a dangerous hit-and-run accident, contact a San Diego car accident lawyer as soon as possible.  We may be able to help you secure compensation for your injuries.

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A ballot initiative over penBarbara_Boxerding medical malpractice legislation in California, called “one of the nation’s most expensive ballot campaigns” by the Washington Post, received additional support via a television advertisement from Senator Barbara Boxer.  A recent article in the Los Angeles Times explains that Boxer “emerged as a forceful spokeswoman for an initiative to raise some medical malpractice awards in the state.”

Proposition 46, Damage Caps, and Medical Malpractice Legislation

The ballot measure, known as Proposition 46, “would increase the limit on certain medical malpractice damages from $250,000 to approximately $1.1 million.”  Since 1975, non-economic damages have been capped at $250,000.  Unlike economic damages, which typically compensate a victim for hospital bills, medical visits and treatments, and so forth, non-economic damages compensate victims for injuries such as loss of enjoyment of life, disfigurement, and pain and suffering. Also unlike economic damages, non-economic damages cannot be measured in a fixed dollar amount, and can therefore vary widely from case to case.

According to Senator Boxer, putting a higher cap on medical malpractice damages would help to “prevent medical errors in the first place because there is more at stake.”  In order to prevent medical errors, Proposition 46 would require additional safety practices.  Specifically, it would “require hospitals to randomly test physicians for drugs,” and it also would “[r]equire doctors to check a statewide database of prescriptions before prescribing certain drugs in an effort to curb abuse of those medications.”

Advertising in a Costly Campaign

In the recent advertisement narrated by Boxer, viewers are shown images of children who died because of “preventable medical errors.”  The advertisement does not specifically refer to raising the medical malpractice damages cap, but instead emphasizes that changes to the current medical malpractice law would “hold the medical industry accountable for mistakes.”

Currently, trial attorneys who support Proposition 46, along with consumer and healthcare advocates, have raised approximately $5 million for the campaign.  Opponents of the ballot initiative, who released a television ad in late August, include doctors and malpractice insurers, have raised more than $54 million.  While the opponents are better funded, a spokesperson for a consumer advocacy group emphasized that those in favor of the initiative “will be competitive on television.”

Medical malpractice awards are a very hot topic in California.  News of the ballot initiative to raise the cap for certain compensatory damages even made national news, and California residents eagerly await the November vote.  If you or a loved one has been injured because of medical malpractice, contact an experienced San Diego medical malpractice attorney to discuss your case.

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The summer months increase the risk of childhood drowning. The weather is at its warmest, and many people in the San Diego area enjoy swimming at the beach and in pools throughout the area. However, it is extremely important to keep a close eye on children when they are near the water to prevent drowning accidents. According to arecent article from San Diego News 6, the last week of August saw six near-fatal child drownings in San Diego County.

According to Oseana Bratton, file2041245784619a nurse at Rady Children’s Hospital, “six cases of young children nearly drowning in a 48-hour period may seem like a lot, but it’s not that uncommon this time of year, and there’s plenty more hot weather ahead.” Are parents and caregivers keeping an appropriately watchful eye?

One-year-old Gabriel Clark, his four-year-old sister, and the children’s nanny were swimming in a neighbor’s pool in Oceanside. According to the article, “it was just another day for his parents, both of them at work, until his mom Karen got a heart-stopping text.” The nanny texted Gabriel’s mother with a “terrifying text” that simply said “please call me.” The nanny had placed Gabriel in a flotation device—“the kind where his feet were in the water.” Karen told San Diego News 6 that the nanny reportedly “turned away for just a few seconds to help four-year-old Mia jump into the pool.”

In the brief moment during which the nanny turned her attention away from young Gabriel, he “had just tried to get out, so he wasn’t totally out, but his head was submerged,” according to the victim’s mother. When the nanny removed Gabriel from the water, “he was blue and not breathing.” The nanny performed CPR on Gabriel. When emergency medical responders arrived, Gabriel was breathing on his own again.

Though Gabriel was okay in the end, secondary drowning can be a serious—and often deadly—result of a near-drowning. As a precaution, Gabriel stayed in the pediatric intensive care unit at Rady Children’s Hospital overnight.

Unintentional Drownings: Keeping Kids Safe

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately ten people suffer fatal drowning injuries each day in the U.S. About 20 percent of those victims are kids under the age of 15. The CDC emphasizes that drowning is the fifth-leading cause of unintentional injury death in our country. Those figures do not include people who die in boating-related accidents.

To prevent unintentional drownings, it is important to know the risk factors:

  • Males are much more likely than females to die from drowning. In fact, about 80 percent of fatal drowning victims are males.
  • Children between the ages of one and four years old are at greatest risk of drowning. About one-third of accident related fatalities of children in that age group are caused by drowning.

According to the CDC, important prevention measures include the following:

  • Learn to swim, or ensure that your children have swimming skills before you go near or into the water;
  • Learn CPR;
  • Wear a lifejacket or other flotation device;
  • Always make sure children are supervised when they are in the water or around water;
  • Teach children to use the buddy system when in the pool or at the beach;
  • Always avoid drinking alcohol before swimming.

If your child died in a drowning accident, it is important to talk to an experienced San Diego wrongful death attorney. Contact the Walton Law Firm to learn how we can assist you.

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Earlier this month, a cyclist suffered catastrophic injuries after being struck by a wrong-way driver on Fiesta Island, according to a recent story from NBC San Diego.  Other riders in San Diego’s cycling community explained that the victimDSCN1797, Juan Carlos Vinolo, 49, sustained serious injuries after pushing another cyclist out of the way of the oncoming vehicle.  The car accident left Vinolo paralyzed with a severe spinal cord injury.

Wrong-Way DUI Driver Seriously Injures Bicyclists

Vinolo was riding with about thirty other cyclists, members of the San Diego Bicycle Club.  Vinolo’s wife, Emma Irarragorri, told NBC San Diego her husband “is always obsessed with safety when he rides his bicycle.”  When her husband saw the oncoming car, he “instinctively pushed the leader out of harm’s way,” saving that cyclist’s life but suffering serious injuries in the bicycle accident.

The auto accident caused serious injuries to other members of the San Diego Bicycle Club as well.  According to the article, the “impact of the crash shattered the car’s windshield and sent at least 10 cyclists to the hospital with injuries ranging from facial cuts to bruised ribs.”  Vinolo, however, was the most seriously injured of anyone on the group.  His injuries included two punctured lungs, broken ribs, a broken left clavicle, dislocated left shoulder, loss of one kidney, spleen laceration, and six broken vertebrae.

According to one of the cycling teammates, Logan Bass, several cyclists saw the car approaching and attempted to get out of the way.  Bass remembers seeing Vinolo on top of the car, and another cyclist on the car’s windshield.  Bass sustained a contusion to his ribs and a cut on his foot.  Although he spent two days in the hospital, he and the other cyclists are most concerned about Vinolo.

Police arrested and charged the vehicle’s driver, Theresa Lynn Owens, 49, with driving under the influence and possession of a controlled substance.

Bicycle-Related Injuries: Facts and Statistics

How often do bicycle accidents occur?  In general, only about 1 percent of all trips taken in our country are on bicycle. Yet cyclists face a much higher risk of crash-related injury, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  Some important facts about bicycle crashes:

  • In 2010, about 800 bicyclists sustained fatal injuries in collisions;
  • About 515,000 emergency room visits take place each year due to bicycle-related injuries;
  • On average, serious and fatal crash-related injuries result in medical costs and productivity losses of about $5 billion annually.

Who is at risk in a serious or fatal bicycle accident?  Risk factors include:

  • Age: Adolescents between the ages of 15-24 and adults aged 45 and older are at the highest risk of a bicycle accident fatality.  The highest rate of nonfatal bicycle-related injuries occurs among children under the age of 15.  In fact, about 60 percent of all bicycle-related injuries involve children under the age of 15.
  • Sex: The CDC reports that males are “much more likely to be killed or injured” in a bicycle-related accident than are female cyclists.
  • Area: Urban areas are much more dangerous for bicyclists, particularly at non-intersection locations.

Even nonfatal bicycle accidents can result in catastrophic injuries, including spinal cord injuries and traumatic brain injuries.  If you or a loved one have sustained injuries in a bicycle accident or traffic collision, it is important to discuss your case with a San Diego accident lawyer.  We can help you to seek compensation for your injuries.

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New Study Questions Significance of California’s Cell Phone Ban

Six years ago, the use of hand-held phones while driving was banned in California.  The ban, aimed at preventing serious car accidents, led other states to pass similar laws.  In fact, thirteen states now restrict the use of cell phones to hIMG_2322ands-free-only devices for people behind the wheel.  But has California’s cell phone ban actually reduced the number of traffic collisions?  According to arecent article in UT San Diego, a new study out of the University of Colorado questions the utility of the cell phone ban.

As the article points out, for almost a decade we have heard talk about the statistics surrounding texting and hand-held talking while driving. In particular, doing so results in distracted driving, and distracted driving causes life-threatening and fatal automobile accidents.  However, according to Daniel Kaffine, associate professor of economics at the University of Colorado, Boulder, there is no clear “statistical evidence of a reduction” in accidents associated with California’s cell phone ban.

The cell phone ban first went into effect in July 2008.  Over the six months that followed, “researchers determined there was no evidence crashes were reduced.”  Kaffine explained that, if talking on a handheld phone while driving was really so dangerous, “and if even just a fraction of people stopped using their phones, we would expect to find some decrease in accidents.”  Yet Kaffine’s research team found no such evidence.

Kaffine’s team at the University of Colorado is not the first group of researchers to question the efficacy of handheld cell phone bans.  In fact, a study from 2013 published in American Economic Journal looked closely at data surrounding “nationwide, single-vehicle, single-occupant crash numbers” near the time when a lot of states implemented texting-while-driving bans.  According to the study, “initially, there was a notable drop in collisions.”  However, only three months after the bans were enacted, “crashes had crept back up to levels seen before the texting ban was in place.”

Why Are Handheld Talking and Texting Bans Not Working?

Law enforcement officials say these bans are doing a lot of good, and California officials reject Kaffine’s study.  However, the recent research suggests some compelling reasons why neither ban made much of an impact in California or across the country:

  •      Distracted driving does not just result from handheld phone use.  It is possible many California drivers switched to hands-free devices. A number of researchers suggest this method of talking is “equally distracting;”
  •      Drivers choose to ignore the ban, and continue using handheld devices for talking and texting while driving;
  •      The drivers most likely to use handheld devices are “the type of drivers who engage in other distracting behaviors.”  In short, they replaced one distracting behavior—the handheld cell use—with another;
  •      Talking while driving is not as dangerous as believed.

Law enforcement officials stress that we, as drivers, are less perceptive when talking while driving.  According to one California Highway Patrol Officer, if the ban is not working, it is because people are not following the law. The number of tickets issued could support this point, with nearly 20,000 issued in 2011, more than 15,000 issued in 2012, and nearly 11,000 issued in 2013.  The California Highway Patrol predicts that number will rise in 2014.

Have you sustained serious injuries in a car accident?  Distracted driving can lead to fatal traffic collisions and debilitating injuries.  If you have been hurt, it is important to contact an experienced San Diego car accident lawyer.  You may be eligible for financial compensation.

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Traumatic Brain Injuries and California Sports

Football Tackle

Brain injuries and American football have, unfortunately, seemed to go hand in hand in recent years.  Despite the popularity of contact sports, commentators have suggested that contact sports may have to be scaled back in the coming years due to the high risk of serious head trauma.  Research suggests that even a mild traumatic brain injury (TBI) like a concussion can have life-threatening consequences.  Indeed, a number of professional football players have been diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a dangerous degenerative brain condition caused by multiple concussions, while a number of high school athletes have sustained severe brain injuries on the field.

What’s California doing to prevent serious head injuries?  According to a recent article in the Los Angeles Times, Governor Jerry Brown recently signed into law a bill that is designed to protect student athletes from serious TBIs.  Specifically, it “prohibits football teams at middle and high schools from holding full-contact practices that exceed 90 minutes a day,” while it also “limits the number of full-contact practices during the season to two per week.”  In addition, it prohibits coaches from holding any contact practices at any point during the off-season.

The restrictions in the new law will take effect on January 1, 2015.  They’re designed, the article reported, “to help reduce concussions and other serious brain injuries.”

History of the Law and Teen Sports Injuries

How did the law come about?  Assemblyman Ken Cooley introduced the bill, AB 2127, emphasizing that its “practice guidelines will reassure parents that their kids can learn football safely through three hours of full-contact practice.”  He explained that the prohibitions weren’t intended to prevent teenage athletes from playing football.  Rather, he made clear, the new law would “maximize conditioning and skill development while minimizing concussion risk.”

The bill received support from the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF), an organization in charge of high school sports in California.  In addition to the new law, the CIF also put a new rule into effect that will begin in schools this fall.  The rule prohibits high school coaches in our state from spending more than 18 hours each week on practices.  John Aguirre, the commissioner of the Los Angeles City Section and a former football coach, emphasized that “everybody is going to have to educate themselves and transition within the limitations.”

As you might imagine, a number of high school football coaches aren’t very happy about the new law and the CIF rule.  According to a coach at Los Angeles Roosevelt High School, football teams “need to have full contact” in the off-season.  Without it, he argues, coaches won’t be able to “figure out who can play.”

Are the new prohibitions necessary to prevent head injuries?  Do we really need these restrictions when we’re just talking about high school athletes?  In short, the answer is yes.  Based on data reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 4 million high schoolers sustain brain injuries every year, and many of those serious injuries occur during practices for popular contact sports like football.

If your child sustained a concussion or other severe brain injury while playing high school sports, it’s very important to talk to an experienced San Diego brain injury attorney.  You may be able to seek compensation.  Contact us today to learn more about how we can assist you.

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What should you look for when deciding on a California drug rehabilitation facility?  In many cases, consumers believe the higher the price of the facility, the better the care.  However, many high-end drug rehabilitation facilities in Southern California have victimized patients, and a number of them sustained serious and fatal personal injuries.  Should you look, instead, to see whether a facility has been accredited?  How about facilities that have been licensed and/or certified by the state?

Needles & Therapy

A lot of terms exist to suggest that a facility provides high quality care.  Yet it’s important to remember that neither the price tag associated with a facility, nor its accreditation or certification status, can promise a safe environment for a loved one battling addiction.

Drug Rehab Facility Safety in California

In California, the Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) has “sole authority to license facilities providing 24-hour residential nonmedical services to eligible adults who are recovering from problems related to alcohol or other drug misuse or abuse.”  When must a facility be licensed by the state of California?  If the facility provides one of the following services, then it’s required to be licensed by DHCS:

  •      Detoxification;
  •      Group sessions;
  •      Individual sessions;
  •      Educational sessions;
  •      Alcoholism or drug abuse recover; or
  •      Alcoholism or drug abuse treatment planning.

Certification is different from being licensed.  A number of facilities that are licensed are also certified.  But according to the DHCS website, “certification by DHCS identifies those facilities which exceed minimum levels of service quality and are in substantial compliance with State program standards, specifically the Alcohol and/or Other Drug Certification Standards.”

In other words, a facility that’s both licensed and certified is likely to have met higher standards than other facilities.  But those terms alone can’t always promise quality care.  And how do they compare to accredited facilities?

Accreditation Standards for Drug Rehab Facilities

According to a recent article in Psych Central, accreditation isn’t synonymous with quality treatment.  Why not?  First thing’s first: not all accreditation is equal.  In fact, many accredited facilities haven’t been licensed by the state to provide care for people seeking to overcome alcohol or drug addiction.  Instead, many facilities have been accredited by third parties.  And some of these third-party accreditors aren’t as thorough as others.

In most cases, facilities seek accreditation either from CARF (the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities) or The Joint Commission.  Generally speaking, “facilities that meet CARF or Joint Commission standards have demonstrated their commitment to being among the best drug rehab facilities in the world.”  And in some states, accreditation by one of these facilities can go toward fulfillment of certain licensing requirements.

Yet we need to remember that simply being licensed or accredited doesn’t ensure excellent care.  Indeed, patients sustain injuries and endure abuse even at high-end facilities that have been licensed in California or accredited by CRF.  According to the article, “several correlations exist between accreditation and quality care, but the association isn’t uniform across all accredited programs.”

Accreditation is one of the “best indicators of quality that we have,” according to Dr. David Sack, who is board certified in psychiatry, addiction psychiatry, and addiction medicine.  However, rather than simply rely on a facility’s price tag, its certification status, or its accreditation status, it’s essential that you “do your homework.”

If you or a loved one sustained injuries due to abuse or neglect in a California drug rehab facility, the Walton Law Firm can help.  Even high-end facilities can be held accountable for abuse, and we can discuss your options with you today.  Contact a San Diego personal injury lawyer to learn more.

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