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A California jury awarded the victim of a slip and fall injury $38.6 million to compensate the person for a brain injury caused by a low motel balcony railing. The railing was significantly lower than local building codes required and therefore did not protect anyone over 5 feet 7 inches tall from falling.

While this award is certainly larger than a typical slip and fall settlement would be, it also shows that these types of accidents can cause very severe injuries. This is one of the many reasons why property owners are held to the standard of reasonable safety for visitors and why they have a duty to warn people of known or likely hazards.

Brain injuries are some of the most difficult injuries to recover from, since the brain is slow to repair itself and does not regrow tissue the way that other organs can. Many accident victims who sustain head and brain injuries suffer from memory loss and loss of other cognitive functions that can make it difficult or impossible to continue to work. One of the major factors influencing large awards in brain injury cases is often the large amount of lost wages caused by the injury.

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Spinal cord injuries can occur during many moments in life. Serious neck and back injuries that affect the spinal cord can result from car accidents, sports injuries, and even domestic violence. Individuals with spinal cord injuries may eventually benefit from the science behind a new type of robot legs that use human legs as a model. Researchers at the University of Arizona recently released a paper that describes the new development in robotic bipedal movement.

Traditionally, robots with two legs have a hard time negotiating the surface they move across even when the surface is smooth. Any deviation in the walking surface like an incline, decline or bump severely throws off traditional bipedal robots. However, technology developed at the University of Arizona may allow for more nimble two-legged robots.

We measure our walking environment by collecting information from our legs and feet and transfer the information to our spinal cord. Information collected from our lower legs is transferred to a network of neurons in the spinal cord, which is referred to as the central pattern generator. The central pattern generator allows us to remain steady when walking without requiring us to actively think.

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Recovery from a serious car accident requires more than just good medical care. Injury sufferers also need money to afford that care. The parents of a San Jose woman who suffered a traumatic brain injury in a collision three years ago are all too aware of the costs of her recovery, which is ongoing without an end in sight.

The young woman, now 21, was on her way to church when her car was hit head-on by another vehicle. The collision left her in a vegetative state, and although she continues to improve, her medical costs continue to pile up. Both her parents, who are divorced, quit their jobs to care for her around the clock. The family does have insurance but it doesn't cover all of the costs , including her physical, occupational or speech therapy. One form of this therapy began in May 2011, almost two years after her accident. "Waking" treatment allowed her to communicate with her family for the first time using "yes or no" buttons. But this treatment isn't covered by insurance, either.

To help offset the cost of the treatments that are helping her improve, her family has collaborated with the International Brain Research Foundation to hold a 5 kilometer run benefit. The third annual event will take place at the end of this month and aims to raise $100,000.

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During our last post we wrote about electronic driving aids that are supposed to warn drivers about impending collisions. While those systems will help more drivers in the future as more vehicles become outfitted with technology, many drivers lack the assistance of electronic driving aids. Three recent crashes in Santa Clara County show how drivers face the risk of car accidents everyday and why additional technology in our vehicles is helpful.

Last week, two lanes of Highway 17 were shutdown for two hours when a 10-car pileup occurred north of Redwood Estates Road in Los Gatos. A report of an accident involving four to five cars was initially reported to police around 10 a.m. The crash was reported north of Summit Road and fortunately no injuries were reported. The area north of Madrone Drive is known to be a dangerous portion of the highway, and motorists should travel with care in that area.

Tragically, last week's Independence Day also did not go without an accident. Just before 2 p.m. on July 4, a driver in his late 20s or early 30s was seen weaving on northbound Route 87 near Taylor Street in San Jose. According to NBC Bay Area, the driver hit the guardrail and flipped his truck. The man died from his injuries the same day, and it is not clear if drugs or alcohol were a factor. Fortunately, no other drivers or passengers were injured.

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Imagine being involved in what seems like a minor car accident. Just as the other vehicle hits, your head hits the side window or another part of the car. Experiencing no other injuries or immediate side effects, you dismiss the ensuing headache as a harmless bump. But did you suffer a brain injury? How would you know for certain?

The latest research on traumatic brain injuries suggests they're much more common than previously thought. As experts learn more about the long-term effects of head trauma, they're also discovering a broader range of TBI among all age groups. Mayo Clinic researchers have developed a new, more comprehensive system for classifying brain injuries and concluded that the incidence of TBI is probably greater than estimated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Mayo Traumatic Brain Injury Classification System classifies brain injuries using a much more comprehensive scale. Using categories including "definite," "probable" and "possible," the new classification method allows researchers to categorize symptoms from dizziness and nausea to a loss of consciousness. Using the data from this system, one of the study's authors, the director of brain rehabilitation research at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, said it's likely that many traumatic brain injuries have gone undiagnosed.

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