Berwick Solicitors achieve the Gold Standard

Berwick Solicitors achieve the Q6000 Gold Standard for quality legal services.

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The Q6000 Standard is the single quality management standard recently launched by the Institute of Legal Research and Standards for Law firms in Ireland http://bit.ly/1aMY83G. It will enable law firms to provide independent verification of the quality management standards which operate in their firm.

 Berwick Solicitors remain committed to maintaining the highest possible standards in legal services.

 

 

Time-limits for suing

In some areas of law, it is easy for a claimant to leave it too late to sue (in other words, the law provides that cases must be taken within certain time- limits, such as three years).

This time -limit can run against a Claimant even though the claimant is not aware of the damage. However, in general, where the wrong relates to a personal injury (such as one might suffer in a car- accident), the time-limits do not run against you unless you are “aware” of the injury (injuries can sometimes occur which might only become manifest years later).

The difficulty with personal injuries is that the time runs out after a shorter period than in most other claims, namely two years ( for personal injuries).

 

Defamation

You can spend a lifetime building up your good name and reputation yet it might only take a moment to have it destroyed.
The Defamation Act 2009 is the primary legislation which protects your good name and it defines a defamatory statement as a statement that tends to injure a person’s reputation in the eyes of reasonable members of society. With the proliferation of online and social media, a defamatory statement can spead worldwide in an instant.

We were recently instructed by a client who discovered defamatory statements on a website. Within hours we had obtained an injunction shutting down the website and in the subsequent defamation action we obtained damages for our client in the sum of fifty thousand euro, the maximum jurisdiction of the circuit court, as well as all legal costs.

If you have been defamed, contact us for expert advice and assistance in protecting your reputation.

Accidents At Work; When Can Employee Take A Claim?

If you are injured at work, you may be entitled to take a claim. Work injuries can frequently be serious as work frequently involves working with heavy machinery. Indeed, even where it does not, for example where you are doing reasonably light repetitive work, quite severe repetitive strain type injury can result.

If you are injured in an accident at work, you would normally take a case against your employer, as the employer is usually in control of the workplace.


When can I succeed?

Generally that you must show that the employer is negligent, i.e. that the employer did not take reasonable care for your safety.

To succeed in your claim, you must show that the employer has not taken reasonable care as regards your safety and that your accident resulted from this lack of care. Usually, you would show that the employer was aware of a particular risk/danger (or should have been aware of it) and did not remove this risk. So, for example, if you have complained to your employer of soreness/illness from using a particular type of machine and your employer does not take reasonable case so as to eliminate this real danger, then you might be in a good position to take a case. In these type of situations, employers can have tests carried out so as to show that particular work practices are safe. Another example is where a practice has developed allowing spillages to be omitted onto the floor (thus causing a slippery/dangerous floor). If an employer is aware of this tendency and does not eliminate it, then you are likely to have a good claim against your employer if your injury results from such a spillage.

In certain situations, you are entitled to sue your employer even if the employer has taken reasonable care. You can do this where you can show that a particular statute has been breached (for example, if you are injured to defective equipment supplied by an employer, you are likely to have a good case).

It might also be appropriate for a case to be taken against another party, for example, the supplier/manufacturer of the defective equipment (in any event, the employer would probably try to pass liability to this third party). In these situations, it is important to discuss what exactly occurred, why it occurred and what exactly was the defect to ensure that you sue all relevant parties in time.

Traumatic Brain Injury

INTRODUCTION: 

Injury to the Brain can result from various causes but, from a legal point of view, we concentrate on the most relevant one, namely traumatic brain injury, i.e, injury caused by way of a trauma.

The main causes of traumatic brain injury are road traffic accidents, falls, assaults, occupational injuries and recreational accidents. Motor cyclists are at a greater risk than other motor users and pedestrians are at a greater risk still.

Where mild traumatic brain injury has occurred, recovery occurs but, in more severe cases, there can be ongoing cognitive, emotional and behavioural consequences.

BERWICK SOLICITORS EXPERIENCE IN BRAIN/HEAD INJURIES:

Berwick Solicitors in Galway have considerable experience in this area:-

Contact: Berwick Solicitors, 16 Eyre square, Galway. Ph; 091-567545 or email: info@berwick.ie.

TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY: MORE INFORMATION

These occur as a result of an accident, typically road traffic Accidents. The head might be banged against the dash of a car; or, the head might be shaken violently.

The skull provides some protection to the brain but it is somewhat like an eggshell; if one violently shakes an egg, damage is caused to the inside of the egg, even though the shell of the egg is not damaged. In the same way, severe injury can be caused to the inside of the brain (which is a soft gelatinous structure which floats inside the skull in a fluid) which is protected by the skull. Also, the Brain can be caused to rotate within the skull, which can cause bleeding and other injury.

Injury to the brain can also be caused then the head bangs against a hard object (as against the car-dash outlined above or where one falls heavily onto a floor in a slipping- accident). In these situations, the brain is injured by virtue of the initial contact (called the “ coup injury”). Further injury can be caused by virtue of the movement within the brain, resulting in the “contra coup injury”.

LOBES OF THE BRAIN:

There are four lobes in the brain namely; Frontal Lobe, Temporal Lobe, Parietal Lobe and Occipital Lobe.

Each Lobe has its functions, so that the consequences of brain injury will partly depend on which lobe/lobes is/are injured.

Temporal Lobe: This largely controls memory and auditory information. Injury to this part of the brain can result in short -term memory, difficulties, limitations in the sense of smell and taste and vestibular problem as well as multi-tasking.

Parietal Lobe; This controls sence of touch and also our ability to read.

Occipital Lobe: This area deals with the processing of visual information.

 

BRAIN INJURY: INITIAL ASSESSMENT AND TREATMENT

Immediate Emergency Care/Hospital Diagnosis

Initial emergency care concentrates on making sure that the injured person has sufficient supply of blood and oxygen; also maintaining blood pressure and preventing any further injury to the head or neck.

The Medics will also focus on minimizing any injury that might result from bleeding or reduced oxygen supply to the brain.

Initial Diagnosis:

As traumatic brain injuries are usually an emergency (and ,because patients can swiftly deteriorate in condition), doctors need to assess the patient rapidly and accurately. This test (see details below) helps the medical personnel to quickly assess the severity of a brain injury. Obviously important are the following:-

How did the Injury occur?

How did the person lose consciousness?

How long was the person unconscious?

Where was the head struck?

How forceful was the injury?

Was the person’s body whipped around or severely jarred?

Initial Management of Condition:

Typically, in the West of Ireland and smaller Hospitals, for severe cases, patients need to be brought to Dublin by transport. Typically, they will be accompanied by an expert doctor who will monitor the patient in the journey and will maintain proper levels of pressure, breathing etc,. This is a difficult task for a Doctor; if there were shortage of Personnel, problems can result.

Medication:

Various medications are used immediately after brain injuries including:

  • Diuretics: to reduce pressure inside the brain
  • Anti-seizure drugs : these are given to avoid any possible additional brain damage that might be caused by a seizure.
  • Coma – inducing drug : this is done as brains in a coma use less oxygen and this might be suitable where the brain is struggling to provide oxygen.

Surgery:

Urgent surgery might be needed such as:-

  • Removing blood clots (hematomas) – this surgery is to remove clot of blood from the brain and can put pressure on the brain and damage the brain
  • Repairing skull fractures
  • Opening a window to the skull – usually to reduce pressure in the skull

ESTIMATING SEVERITY

Diagnosis: mild-to-moderate head injury:

It can often be difficult to diagnose the mild to moderate head injury and signs would often be tiredness, headaches, dizziness, difficult thinking, memory, concentration, word- finding, behaviour- problems or anxiety. Often people return to work and then find they are not able to perform, requiring them to receive further treatment.

Definition of mild head injury:

A mild head injury would comprise of the following:-

  • Any period of loss of consciousness.
  • Any loss of memory for events immediately before or after the accident or
  • Any alteration or mental state, such as feeling days or concussed.
  • Facial neurological deficits

Provided that the injury does not exceed the following:-

  • A loss of consciousness of thirty minutes.

Estimating Severity:Crucial measures:

  • Coma – the duration of this is most important. If it is greater than one month, this indicates poor outcome.
  • Post-traumatic amnesia; – Less than one hour is mild. Greater than four weeks is very severe.
  • MRI -will detect deep liaisons and surgeons are able to detect deep liaisons and surgeons are able to detect from liaisons likely permanent damage

Summary:

  • Depth and Duration of the Coma and the duration of the Post-Traumatic Amnesia (PTA).

  • Glasgow Coma Scale is most often used as a measure of impairment of conscious level.

As regards Amnesia – Retrograde Amnesia refers to the period when the Amnesia begins (before the accident/injury) and then goes to some point after the accident/injury, referred to as Ante-rograde Amnesia or Post-Traumatic Amnesia. It is PTA which is most important, rather than Retrograde Amnesia. The Assessment of PTA is quite difficult and requires more skill than Glasgow Coma Scale Assessment and is usually done some time after the initial assessment.

Glasgow Coma Scale: (See information on this below)

Imaging Tests:

CT Scans are used (Neurosurgeon and Neurologists find them more useful than MRI Scans). The CT Scan uses a series of x-rays to create a detailed view of the brain. A CT Scan can quickly show fractures and show any bleeding in the brain (hemorrhage) blood clots (hematomas), bruised brain tissue (contusions) and brain tissue swelling.

MRI Scans are used sometimes and can give more detailed information but are not as flexible for doctors and MRI Scans take too long and are more expensive. Also, PET Scanning is useful for quantifying the extent of brain damage.

Cranial Pressure Monitor:

The pressure in the brain needs to be monitored very closely and a probe can be inserted into the brain to monitor this pressure.

Glasgow Outcome Scale:

This has a 15 point scale

  • The Glasgow Outcome Scale – is widely used and very well established to measure outcomes and has the following categories:-

1. Death – severe injury or death without recovery of consciousness

2. Persistent Vegetative State – prolonged state of unresponsiveness and a lack of higher mental functions.

3. Severe Disability – severe injury with permanent need for help with daily living.

4. Moderate Disability – no need for assistance in everyday life, employment is possible and may require special equipment.

5. Low Disability – light damage with minor Neurological and Psychological Deficit.

Children;

  • Doctors find it more difficult to assess children
  • More likely to suffer delayed or prolonged increase in brain pressure.
  • More difficult to read the scans for doctors
  • Formerly thought that children recovered better but this no longer thought.

COMPLICATIONS:

The following complications can be caused by a traumatic brain injury:-

Altered Consciousness:

  • Coma: this results from extensive damage to parts of the brain and, after a number of weeks, the person may emerge from the coma or enter a vegetative state.
  • Vegetative State: This might happen if there is extensive injury to the brain, where the person is not aware of his or her surroundings and may be barely able to open eyes, make sounds etc.
  • Minimally- Conscious state: Here, the person has some since of self-awareness and awareness of environment.

Fluid build up:

  • Fluid may build up on the brain and this can result in increased swelling and pressure.

Infection:

  • Bacteria can enter the brain and cause infection.

Blood vessels:

Nerve damage:

  • The following can result:-
  • Loss of Vision
  • Loss of facial sensation
  • Swallowing problems
  • Eye movement problems
  • Facial muscle problems.

Cognitive Problems:

The following type of problems can result:-

  • Problem solving
  • Reasoning
  • Learning
  • Memory
  • Judgment
  • Attention or concentration
  • Multi-tasking
  • Organization
  • Decision making.

Communication Problems:

As you will see from the list below, it is not surprising that these problems result in conflict with spouses, family members, difficulty in organizing their lives and getting on with it:-

  • Difficulty speaking or writing
  • Problems understanding speech or writing
  • Trouble in following conversations
  • Problems with expressing complicated emotions and attitudes
  • Difficulty in using the muscles needed to form words (Dysarthria)
  • Problems organizing thoughts and ideas.

Behavioural Problems;-

  • The following sometimes result from dramatic brain injury:-
  • Problems in social situations
  • Physical or verbal outbursts
  • Problems with self -control and risky behaviour
  • Inaccurate self-image and poor awareness of abilities.

Emotional Changes:

These might include:-

  • Mood swings
  • Irritability
  • Lack of understanding/appreciation of others
  • Anger
  • Insomnia
  • Depression
  • Anxiety

Sensory Problems:

  • These might include:-
  • Difficulty recognizing items
  • Line spots or double vision
  • Bitter taste or a nasty smell
  • Skin tingling, pain or itching
  • Trouble with balance or dizziness
  • Impaired hand – eye coordination
  • Ringing in ears

Degenerative Brain Diseases:

A traumatic brain injury can increase the risk of degeneration of the brain, including:-

  • Alzheimer’s Disease, resulting in gradual loss of memory and other thinking skills
  • Parkinson’s Disease, resulting in problems with movement, such as tremors
  • Dementia Pugilistica – often resulting from Boxing (many blows to the head).

REHABILITATION

Rehabilitation:

The Centre for Rehabilitation in Ireland is The Rehabilitation Centre in Dun Laoghaire. Typically, treatment is done over an extended period of time and it involves meticulous rehabilitation for the patient and involves Rehabilitation Consultants, Neuropsychologists, Rehabilitation Nurses , Physiotherapist and Occupational Therapists and others.

For more severe traumatic brain injuries, long -term problems can persist. Recovery tends to be more rapid in the first two years and can be quite slow after that.

In severe cases, there is the question of where the patient is to be accommodated/live. Treatment such as physiotherapy, speech and occupational -therapy, cognitive therapy (such as is provided by Quest in Galway).

Obviously, patients with severe traumatic brain injury ,have problems in maintaining relationships and this has to be taken into account in assessing the case by the Solicitor. Likewise, ability to work into the future can be affected in a major way and financial calculations of loss will be made.

LEGAL WORK, EXPERTS REPORTS FOR COURT :

Typically, we will obtain extensive reports from Medical Consultants Neuropsychologists, Neurosurgeons, Physiotherapists and Occupational Therapists. We also work with others to estimate the costs of long- term care, after the degree of disability has been established.

As well as the ones mentioned above, Neuroradiologists and Neuropsychiatrists are engaged . Usually neurosurgical evidence is not so important. Neurologists are appropriate when certain physical aspects of the case become relevant, such as whether migraine or hemiparesis are involved. For certain health problems, Neuropsychiatrists are appropriate and, for others ,Neuropsychlogists. Neuropsychologists carry out assessment of mental capacity and these can help in measuring extent of brain injury. Rehabilitation Experts will advise as regards ability to return to work or train for different work.

Neurolopsychologist:

Intelligence tests are done to see how intelligence, or the use of intelligence, has been affected by the trauma, such as “working memory”( which tests the patients’ ability to use information.)

Tests are done as regards verbal memory and other such abilities.

BERWICK SOLICITORS EXPERIENCE IN BRAIN/HEAD INJURIES:

Berwick Solicitors in Galway have considerable experience in this area:-

Contact: Berwick Solicitors, 16 Eyre square, Galway. Ph; 091-567545 or email: info@berwick.ie.

 

Be Careful that Seat-Belt Is Suitable

Recent Changes in the Law: by Berwick Solicitors Galway.

ACCIDENTS: Be Careful that Seat-Belt Is Suitable

If I am involved in an accident in which I have failed to wear a seat-belt, will the amount of my award for personal injury be reduced? The Answer is ,generally, “yes”.

Frequently, a Court will be easily persuaded that a seat-belt will reduce injury; certainly for low-speed head- on crashes. Here, the Courts tended to reduce amounts by 10 and 20% but nowadays this can be much higher. In a recent case (Rogan –V- Walsh 2004 High Court), the Judge reduced the amount of the award for shoulder injury by 50%

as a seat-belt would have reduced this injury ; he did not reduce the award for knee and elbow injuries as the wearing of a seat-belt would not have reduced these latter injuries.

High Speed Accident:

In a recent interesting case (McNeilis case, High Court 2006) the three claimants were young; aged 8, 12 and 14 respectively. Their mother was the driver of the car and there were, in total, five children in the rear seat of the car; none of the five wore seat-belts. A violent accident occured.

Would a seat-belt help?

Side-on impact:

Four occupants of the other car involved in the accident were killed, even though all four were wearing seat-belts. This car was impacted side-on and it is the better engineering view that seat-belts do not assist for side-on impacts.

High Speed Impact:

The view of the experts would appear to be that the seat-belts will help to reduce injury in low impact head-on collisions. However, there are different views among engineers as to whether seat-belts assist in reducing injuries where the cars have been travelling very fast at the time of the impact (in excess of 40mph) and where there is head- on impact. In the case we are discussing, the teenage children suffered severe injuries, including broken legs, hips (requiring multiple replacement hips into the future) and permanent shortening of one leg, scars on legs and acute psychological trauma. However, the Judge was not convinced that lesser injuries would have been caused if the youths had been wearing seat-belts.

 

Seat-belts for Children: Make sure they fit. Also “Lap Seat-belts”:

There were three seat-belts provided in the rear of the above car; two three-point seat belts (covers across shoulder as well as across pelvis) and one lap-belt – (no strap across chest but simply across pelvis/waist). The High Court Judge stated that he was concerned that seat-belts might not fit the wearer/user; he cited cases of younger person where the belt of a three point belt might, instead of staying at the pelvis, ride up to the abdomen. Also, the diagonal strap across the chest could catch the neck. Both these eventualities could cause very serious injury and arise because the belts do not suit the size of the users.

Wearing a lap-belt can cause very severe injury. In the present case, the Judge was of the view that such a lap belt could cause catastrophic injuries.

SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION:

The Law states that , as a general rule, seat-belts do reduce injuries and so should be worn. However, seat-belts do not reduce injuries for certain collisions; for example , high- speed impacts. In the present case, the Judge decided that the wearing of the seat-belts would not have reduced the injuries (and so did not reduce the award). Also, in this case, expert views were cited as saying that seat-belts do not help to reduce injuries for side-on impacts.

The Judge also expressed serious concern about seat-belts not fitting the user; you need to be very careful here; especially for children, as ill-fitting belt can cause acute injury. Furthermore, avoid lap seat-belts.

 

Author:

Berwick Solicitors, 16 Eyre square, Galway is heavily involved in representing victims of accidents and has been engaged in this work for over 20 years. Feel free to contact us on 091 567545 or info@berwick.ie.

The Dangers Of Doing A Nixer

THE DANGERS OF DOING A NIXER

Local personal injury Solicitor warns of the dangers of doing uninsured work.

In the last few months of 2010 the dangers of doing a nixer i.e. doing work for cash not through the normal payroll or through the course of your job became apparent with 2 recent personal injury claims in the West of Ireland.

The first case, which was a Mayo case, involved a hairstylist who worked for a salon, doing work without the knowledge of her employer. Basically, this lady thought that she could earn a few extra euro in cash by doing some extra work privately for friends of hers in her own home. However, when she was asked to do a job for a friend of hers, in which she was to colour her hair, complications arose and her friend suffered severe burns to her scalp as a result of an adverse reaction to the hair colouring product.

Her friend turned out to no longer be her friend and sued her for negligence. Because the hair stylist did not carry out the work officially through her employer she was not covered by her employers insurance. Furthermore, because she did the job in her home her house insurance did not cover her. Accordingly, she ended up having to pay €13,000.00 in damages out of her own pocket.

A further recent case in the Mid-West involves a plumber who decided he would also do a nixer without his employer’s knowledge and fitted a back boiler to a fireplace for a neighbour of his. Unfortunately, the back boiler was not fitted correctly and when his neighbour put on a roaring fire within hours the boiler exploded causing severe physical injuries to his neighbour.

As a result of him doing this nixer this plumber faces damages in the hundreds of thousands of euro range and will, most likely, lose his home.

Accordingly, Berwick Solicitors wish to advise that you should, under no circumstances, do a nixer because you risk a claim for damages if your work causes injury or damage to a person or their property.

Hit and Run

Recent Changes in the Law: by Berwick Solicitors Galway.

CAR ACCIDENT;- HIT AND RUN AND OTHER UNSAVOURY EVENTS/MISHAPS

Hit and Run:
You were driving your car home at night when you were suddenly and violently hit from behind by a vehicle which quickly left the scene. You were injured and you did not have an opportunity of getting the Registration Number of the fleeting car. The Gardaí failed to ever identify the said vehicle. Can you make a claim for your injury? A claim can be made against the Motor Insurers Bureau of Ireland (MIBI).

If you incur car damage (as well as personal injuries), you are obliged to claim against your comprehensive insurance (if you have such cover). Here, you will not lose your “no claims bonus”. If you do not have such comprehensive policy, you can only claim against MIBI where your injury is severe (in hospital for at least five days). There is also an excess of €500 (so you have to cover this amount yourself). Otherwise, you cannot claim for vehicle damage.

Stolen Vehicles:
A different example occurs where a vehicle collides into you and it transpires to be stolen (and so does not have Insurance Cover). Here, you can likewise make a claim (and you can also claim for almost all of your car damage).

Passengers in Stolen Vehicles:

What happens if you take a lift in a car that transpires to be stolen? And if you discover this fact after you suffer injury when a crash? Can you claim for your injury? You can indeed, provided that you did not know that the car was stolen when you entered it.

Berwick Solicitors, 16 Eyre square, Galway are heavily involved in representing victims of accidents and has been engaged in this work for over 20 years. Feel free to contact us on 091 567545 or info@berwick.ie.

 

"Don’t Take Lift From Drunk Driver"

Recent Changes in the Law: by Berwick Solicitors Galway.

LOCAL SOLICITOR SAYS CAR ACCIDENT:- “BE CAREFUL NOT TO TAKE LIFT FROM DRUNK DRIVER”

Recent AA Survey revealed that one- in- five people (especially younger people) put their lives at risk on a regular basis by taking a lift from someone that they know to be over the drink-driving limit. If you accept a lift from a Driver who transpires to be drunk and where an accident ensues, your entitlement to make a claim in the event of you suffering injury( caused by Drunk Driver’s carelessness) could be severely jeopardised (you also ,obviously, incur other serious risks). The Courts have decided the above on many occasions and recently have become more strict in this regard.

Older Approach:

(More lenient)

An example of the older and more lenient approach of the Courts is found in a court case heard in 1968 ( Judge Reape (1968 Ir). In this case, the Claimant was a passenger. He and the Driver of the car made six stops at Public houses on a journey from Ballina to Dublin, over a period of some hours. At each stop, alcohol was consumed.

Despite this large amount of drink taken, the amount of the award to the passenger was not reduced despite the passenger allowing himself to be driven by a drunk driver.

Modern Approach: More strict:

The Courts have today radically changed their attitude; nor will it usually convince a Court to say that you did not know that the driver was drunk;- you will be deemed to know if the driver’s drunkenness should have been obvious to you. For example, in a recent case (Devlin –V- Cassidy 2004 IR), the Claimant was 24 years of age and he went drinking with a group of friends at about 7pm in the evening and remained on- the- town until approximately 3am on the following morning. A Report on the driver after the accident showed that he had consumed twice the permitted levels and also had taken ecstasy. The Claimant maintained that he was not in the company of the Driver for much of the evening (and so maintained that he did not know that the Driver was drunk). The Judge did not accept this and concluded that the Claimant must have known that the Driver was drunk. Also, the Claimant was himself drunk and you are not allowed to hide behind this condition. In this case, the Judge reduced the amount of the award by 50%.

SUMMARY:

Normally, a claim by a passenger is straightforward, however, where a passenger is aware that the Driver has consumed drink, the amount of an award tends to be reduced by a lot (40 or 50%) This varies according to the extent that the Claimant knew or ought to have known of the risk he was undertaking.

It is not enough for the Claimant to say that he did not know that the driver was drunk; the Claimant cannot close his eyes to obvious facts.

Author:

Berwick Solicitors, 16 Eyre square, Galway is heavily involved in representing victims of accidents and has been engaged in this work for over 20 years. Feel free to contact us at 091 567545 or info@berwick.ie.