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Articles Posted in Spinal Cord Injury

Earlier this month, a diver died after being pinned against a sea wall at La Jolla Shores. He was found unconscious, and lifeguards were unable to revive him. This recent drowning accident should raise awareness about the dangers of diving in California.

Drowning is a serious concern in southern California, especially as the weather grows warmer and people flock to the beaches. Drowning cases have a statute of limitations in California. Since you only have two years from the date of the accident to file an accidental death claim, it’s important to contact an experienced personal injury attorney to discuss your options for filing a lawsuit.

Dangerous Waters in La Jolla

Linda McGiness-Pleines is lucky to be alive. The Poway woman was sunbathing on Torrey Pines State Beach when, without any warning, her head was run over by a California State Lifeguard truck. McGiness-Pleines told reporters that she was lying face down on her towel in the sand when the front right tire of the lifeguard truck ran right over her head and neck..

“I heard all this crunching. After it came off of me and I was able to open my mouth and speak, I started screaming” she told 10News.

McGiness-Pleines first thought she had broken her neck. The crunching noise, it turned out, was her jaw and ribs, both suffering fractures. She also has injuries to her right shoulder and possibly her spinal cord.

How it happened is still unclear. Lifeguards have reported, lamely, that it was a busy day and that several rescues had been made, implying that the driver was tired at the time of the accident. An investigation into exactly what happened is ongoing, but it’s clear this is a case of negligence on the part of the lifeguards.

“Everybody’s telling me I’m lucky that I lived, but I shouldn’t be here,” McGiness-Pleines said. “It shouldn’t have happened.”

If McGiness-Pleines wanted to bring a legal action against the state lifeguard service she would first need to file a claim with the appropriate state agency. Under California’s government tort claim law, anytime a person wants to sue a public entity of any kind, be it the state, city, public school, or any other publicly funded agency, it must first file a claim with the relevant agency within six months of the date of the incident. The agency then has 45 days to accept or reject the claim – they always reject – after which the claimant has six months to file a lawsuit. Failing to follow these procedures could bar the claimant from bringing a personal injury lawsuit in the matter.

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It wasn’t that long ago when you would be impressed by the high school cheerleader who could do back flips on the sidelines. Now back flips are practically a prerequisite. As cheerleading becomes more and more recognized as a sport, and the competitive demands grow, doctors are seeing an increasing number of severe injuries related to cheerleading accidents.

Take the story of Laura Jackson. Starting at the age of 14, Laura loved cheerleading and dreamed of being on the sidelines at the high school football games, and maybe even college. On the day of tryouts, however, her life changed. As she attempted a move called a “back-tuck” – a moved she learned just for the tryout – she misjudged the spotter and struck her head on the ground, breaking her neck. Laura is now quadriplegic.

According to the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research at the University of North Carolina, cheerleading is by far and away the most dangerous sport in America for girls. Of all the catastrophic injuries suffered by girls in sport – injures causing permanent disability – cheerleading accounts for 65%. Nearly 30,000 cheerleaders are treated in Emergency Rooms around the country annually, tripling the amount from 1980.

Most people view whiplash as a minor injury, but car accident victims will tell you it’s much more serious than one would expect.

Technically, whiplash is a sudden over-extension of the neck that is usually caused by being struck from behind, as in a rear-end car accident. At the moment of impact, the body moves forward but the head remains still for a fraction of a second, and then the head abruptly follows the body. This violent movement can result in tearing of ligaments and tendons, and in the worse-case, muscles.


Symptoms from whiplash run the gamut, and don’t usually appear until 12 to 24 hours post-accident. Typically, pain begins in the neck, which can become very stiff, severely limiting range of motion. The pain may be accompanied by headaches, fatigue, vision problems, and muscle spasms. If the pain begins to spread to shoulders or arms, or there is numbness or tingling down the extremities, then it is recommended that a doctor be contacted right away.

A volunteer for the Los Angeles Triathlon received a settlement of $7 million from the City of Los Angeles after being rendered a paraplegic in an accident related to the race.

Steve Albala was riding on his motorcycle and helping officiate the bicycle leg of the triathlon when he was struck by a car at an intersection. According to reports, the intersection was being controlled by a traffic officer, who motioned for the vehicle to proceed, despite Albala’s presence on the motorcycle. The force of the impact threw Albala nearly 20 feet, causing a fractured spine and spinal cord damage, and requiring several surgeries and nearly two years in the hospital.

Interestingly, a police report at the time concluded that Albana was speeding, but in the lawsuit those conclusions were successfully challenged. The city also paid $250,000 to Albana’s passenger, who was also injured, and $500,000 to the driver of the car involved.

The number of local Marines killed while riding motorcycles decreased for the first time in three years. The decrease is the result of new safety classes made available to Marines at Camp Pendleton and Miramar Air Force Base. In particular, the Marines are targeting those who ride sport bikes which are lightweight, powerful and popular with younger riders. The course teaches practical skills and mental training according to Richard Stampp, who works with Camp Fox Professional Services which designed and delivers the new course. The Marines have made the new course more accessible, and riders don’t have to wait to get into the course. At both Miramar and Camp Pendleton, riders can enroll very soon after signing up for it. As another means to promote safety, the Marines are encouraging more experienced riders to act as mentors for those with less experience. The mentors hold monthly rides and demonstrate safe riding techniques. Marine leaders are committed to training riders and helping them avoid injury and death.

Source: North County Times.

Walton Law Firm, a North San Diego County law firm, represents accident victims throughout San Diego, Orange and Riverside Counties and has recovered millions of dollars for individuals injured by car accidents, pedestrian accidents, motorcycle accidents, uninsured motorist claims, defective products, construction accidents, slip and fall injuries, dog bites, insurance disputes, and medical malpractice suits. Call (760) 571-5500 for a free consultation.

A major injury can cause major financial burdens, particularly at Christmas time. In San Diego County, there are a few non-profit charitable organizations founded by injured individuals and their families that are there to help. The Can’t Keep Me Down foundation, founded by Bobby DuCharme of Mira Mesa who was paralyzed in a surfing accident, and the Del Mar foundation HeadNorth, founded by Eric Northbrook, who was paralyzed in a motorcycle accident, have stepped up big time.

In today’s Union Tribune are stories of local families who face the arduous task of caring for someone who has suffered a serious injury. For example, Maria Rodriguez was having a tough year and an event tougher Christmas. She cares for her 15-year-old son, who was rendered quadriplegic in an accident, when the transmission on the transport van failed. Then the home she was renting was foreclosed upon, forcing her to move. The events drained her savings.

That’s when the Can’t Keep Me Down foundation entered the scene. The DuCharme family filled the Rodriguez’ living room with a big television, clothes, toys, and holiday decorations. The HeadNorth foundation added to the giving with furniture and a Christmas tree.

More than seven years after a San Diego jury awarded Benetta Buell-Wilson $369 million against Ford Motor Co. it looks like she will finally get paid. Ms. Buell-Wilson suffered a severed spinal cord when the Ford Explorer she was driving overturned on I-8. The jury found that Ford failed to follow its own engineer’s advice to widen the Explorer wheel track or lower its center of gravity because the safety improvements would have been too costly. Ford, the jury determined, knew its Explorer would roll easily but deliberately ignored the risk.

After the verdict, Ms. Buell-Wilson was subject to relentless appeals by Ford, who must have spent additional millions to try to get the verdict overturned. It had some success in getting the award reduced, but its final attack was an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing that the punitive damages assessed against it ($246 million by the jury, reduced to $55 million afterward) were unconstitutional and illegal under California law. Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case.

Dennis Schoville and Lou Arnell, two of San Diego’s finest personal injury lawyers, believe Ms. Buell-Wilson may finally get some of the justice a jury believed she deserved. It’s been seven years since the verdict and she hasn’t seen a penny. Mr. Schoville told the San Diego Union Tribune, “It’s been a long haul, but this is the end of the line for Ford.”

The dangers of cheerleading have been in the news quite a bit recently. While the activity has become more akin to gymnastics than cheering for the sport team, there is very little oversight, and almost no training of coaches. Most high schools, for example, will simply hire a recent graduate to “coach” the cheerleading squad.

In Florida, a jury awarded a former gymnastics coach over $25 million for an accident that left him a quadriplegic from the neck down. Shane Downey was using some tumbling equipment a a North Florida Gymnastics and Cheerleading and fell and broke his neck. The jury decided the gym was entirely at fault for Downey’s catastrophic injuries.

This is an interesting verdict. Typically, a gym member would “assume the risk,” particularly someone who was apparently an accomplished gymnast like Downey.

In any spinal cord injury, the degree of ones recovery is usually dependent on the speed of treatment after the injury-producing event. The longer the wait, the more likely nerve cells wither and die, and paralysis follows. But now, for the first time, Neuroscientists at UCSD have been able to re-grow axons in damaged spinal cords in lab rats whose spinal cord injuries were up to a year old.

This discovery would not have been possible without the concentration of neuroscience research being performed in the San Diego area. Five major neuroscience institutions call San Diego home: UCSD, the Burnham Institute for Medical Research, the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, The Scripps Research Institute and The Neurosciences Institute.

“San Diego has a heavy concentration of people doing both experimental and theoretical work, from molecule to the mind. There are only a few places in its league – cities like New York with Columbia University, Boston with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Baltimore with Johns Hopkins University,” Said Dr. Michael Goldberg, president of the Society for Neuroscience.

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