spinal injuries

How to Deal with Spinal Injuries

If you or a loved one has been involved in a serious accident that resulted in a spinal injury, you may suffer from physical and emotional consequences that will last a lifetime. Depending on the type of accident and the extent of your injury, you may have damages from medical bills, lost wages, and extensive pain and suffering.

Dealing with a spinal injury is never a simple matter. If your condition has resulted from someone else’s negligent or careless actions, you have the right to make a claim for full and fair compensation. You must also face caring for your injuries and take every possible step to rebuild your life after this traumatic event.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Spinal Injuries

If you were involved in an accident, you might have received immediate medical care by emergency medical personnel. Hospital staff will decide whether to test for spinal and spinal cord injuries based on several factors: the type and location of the injury, and any symptoms. Anyone who loses consciousness, fallen, or suffers a blow to the neck or back is in danger of a spinal injury. Common symptoms include loss of movement, tingling, headaches, difficulty breathing, and trouble moving.

No single test is used to assess all spinal injuries. Instead, physicians will rely on various protocols that include clinical evaluations and different imaging tests. Your doctor may order imaging tests such as x-rays, CT-scans, and an MRI to view your spinal column and spinal cord.

The treatment for spinal injuries is going to vary depending on the nature of your condition. The nerves that travel from your brain through your spinal cord also branch out into your arms, legs, and abdomen. Disruption of those nerves can impact your body’s vital functions such as your bladder, lungs, bowels, heart, and the movement of your arms and legs.

Unlike other parts of the body, the spinal cord cannot repair itself, so medical care is vital when an injury occurs. The first priority after an accident is stabilization, and sometimes emergency surgery is necessary to minimize further damage if there is compression of the spine. The Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation reports that medical care after a spinal cord injury can be costly. For example, a high tetraplegia injury could cost $4.7 million in lifetime medical care for a 25-year old accident victim, and this is before any other costs such as lost wages.

How to Cope with a Spinal Injury

When you are accustomed to being able to move freely without pain, dealing with a spinal injury can be difficult for both you and your loved ones. Some of the tips that various experts have produced for coping with spinal injuries include:

  • Allow time for grief. A period of grief and mourning is common with people who have suffered a spinal injury as well as their loved ones. The five stages of grief are denial, sadness, anger, bargaining, and acceptance. Understanding that you may go through these stages after an injury can help you make progress and reach acceptance.
  • Educate yourself. Learn as much as you can about your spinal injury, the types of treatments available, and the accommodations that can be made to make your life enjoyable again.
  • Accept support. When you are used to being independent, it can be difficult to ask for help. Spinal injury victims need to know when and how to ask for help when they need it.
  • Move forward. Once the shock of the accident and injury wear off, it’s essential that you keep moving forward. You may not be able to change the past, but you can control your attitude and can still have a rewarding future.

Speak with an Experienced West Virginia Spinal Injury Attorney

If you or someone you care about is the victim of a spinal injury due to someone else’s negligence, you should not have to endure these financial and emotional hardships without help. A qualified Charleston spinal injury lawyer will have the resources and experience necessary to hold the responsible party liable for your damages.

At Bailey, Javins & Carter, L.C., our dedicated personal injury attorneys have been working on behalf of injured clients and their families for over 40 years. When you are doing everything possible to rebuild your life and recover from your injuries, let us be your strongest legal advocates. Contact our office now at (304) 345-0346 or reach us online to schedule a free consultation.

Who is responsible for the opioid crisis? - Bailey Javins & Carter

Who is Responsible for the Opioid Epidemic?

The opioid crisis in America has reached epic proportions. Opioid-related overdoses have claimed the lives of rock stars Prince and Tom Petty, and this epidemic is sweeping across the nation. Opioids are especially dangerous on college campuses, where they are often mixed with marijuana and other drugs. Former Fox News host Eric Bolling lost his son last year to an opioid overdose, and he said he “never saw any signs” that his son had a drug problem.

The Cost of the Opioid Epidemic

The National Institute of Health reports that more than 115 Americans die from opioid overdoses every single day. That translates into almost 42,000 opioid-related deaths each year and accounts for roughly two-thirds of all drug overdose deaths. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that opioid-related deaths cost the U.S. economy $78.5 billion each year. This includes the cost of healthcare, treatment for addictions, lost productivity, and involvement with the criminal justice system.

How bad is the opioid crisis? The New York Times reports that drug overdoses from prescription drugs are now the leading cause of death for Americans under the age of 50, and the second leading cause of death for Americans ages 18-30. To put this in perspective, there are more deaths linked to overdoses of opioids and similar substances than from guns or auto accidents, and the mortality rates are rising rapidly each year.

The death toll from overdoses of opioids and other controlled substances is just the most visible sign of the problem we are facing. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, nearly 100 million Americans took prescription painkillers in 2015, and 12 million took these drugs without a prescription. Millions of Americans have a problem with opioids, and in states like West Virginia, one out of five babies are born with a narcotics addiction and suffer from painful withdrawals during the first few weeks out of the womb.

It is difficult to quantify the overall cost of the opioid crisis, because its tentacles reach into so many areas of our society. Communities have been devasted by the loss of loved ones, and those who are addicted find it difficult to keep a job and cope with life. Another problem is that, as authorities have cracked down on prescription opioid abuse, many addicts have become more dependent on heroin and other illegal drugs. This has swelled prison populations, with a large percentage of inmates having to be placed in detox or withdrawal programs.

How Did We Get Here?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were more than 200,000 opioid-related deaths between 1999 and 2016, and opioid-related deaths were five times higher in 2016 than they were in 1999. Prior to the 1990s, prescription opioid-related deaths were rare, which means that something must have changed during that decade to spawn the crisis. This suggests that the opioid epidemic was preventable, and that one or more parties are responsible. The questions going forward are who is responsible, and what can we do to stop this?

The Washington Post puts much of the blame for the crisis on the big pharmaceutical companies that produce the opioids. They take aim specifically at Purdue Pharma, a multi-billion dollar entity owned by the Sackler family, one of the wealthiest families in America. Purdue Pharma began to aggressively market the drug oxycontin, convincing the FDA that the drug was safe.

In 2001, a Purdue Pharma executive told Congress, “Addiction (to oxycontin) is not common, addiction is rare in the pain patient who is properly managed.”

The FDA approved the drug with a label claiming that it would provide “smooth and sustained” relief for up to 12 hours – a claim that Purdue knew at the time was far from accurate. Shortly after the approval of oxycontin, the head of the FDA, Dr. Curtis Wright, went to work for Purdue Pharma. In 2007, Purdue Pharma pled guilty as a corporation to falsely marketing the drug and was fined $634 million.

There is no doubt that Big Pharma and crooked physicians and pharmacists bear much of the responsibility for the opioid crisis, but the lynchpin that fueled the operation was the distributors. Last year, 60 Minutes interviewed Joe Rannazzisi, a former Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) deputy assistant administrator who saw first-hand how the widespread influence of the distributors corrupted the DEA and compelled Congress to pass legislation that was favorable to the industry, which essentially tied the hands of DEA agents who were trying to reign in the distributors.

The nation’s three largest pharmaceutical distributors – McKesson, Cardinal Health, and AmerisourceBergen control between 85% and 90% of prescription drug distribution in the U.S. Rannazzisi says that as the DEA cracked down on crooked doctors and pharmacists, the death toll from drug overdoses continued to rise. This is when they realized that the distributors were the real “chokepoint”, and they began pursuing them.

In 2008, McKesson Corporation, the country’s largest distributor, was slapped with a $13.2 million fine by the DEA for sending millions of pills through “suspicious” orders. As more fines were levied in subsequent years, the distributors began to fight back. They hired former DEA officials to lobby the agency, and Rannazzisi suddenly found it much more difficult to prosecute cases against the industry.

After three years of lobbying by the drug distributors, Congress passed the Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act of 2016, a bill sponsored by Pennsylvania representative Tom Marino and Tennessee representative Marsha Blackburn. This bill made it more difficult for the DEA to crack down on distributors who send large volumes of prescription drugs to crooked pharmacies. Inexplicably, the bill was passed unanimously on a voice vote in both the House and Senate and signed into law without a ceremony by then President Barack Obama.

As the scope of the opioid crisis becomes clearer, many in Congress have moved to repeal the Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has also become very proactive and is working closely with many state attorneys general to tackle this crisis. Still, the ties between the pharmaceutical industry and the federal government run deep, and it will be a long fight ahead to curb their influence in Washington.

What Can be Done about the Opioid Crisis?

Important people within the federal government, such as Attorney General Sessions, are finally realizing the magnitude of this crisis and the need for an overwhelming response. There are also many states that are fighting back against the big drug distributors. In West Virginia for example, Attorney General Patrick Morrisey has worked closely with the Justice Department to fight drug trafficking, and he has been praised by Sessions for being “tireless in his efforts to combat this crisis from all fronts.”

Back in 2016, while many in Congress were doing the bidding of the drug distribution industry, Attorney General Morrisey filed a lawsuit against McKesson Corporation for violating the state’s Controlled Substances Act. Attorney Lee Javins of Bailey Javins & Carter is one of the attorneys representing the state in this lawsuit.

Attorney Javins has been an aggressive advocate on behalf of the people of West Virginia for over two decades. He has a successful track record standing up for victims in cases involving workplace injury, product liability, personal injury, and consumer litigation. Lee will be one of the attorneys deposing McKesson executives later this month as they prepare for the trial, which is scheduled to begin in April of 2019.

Several other states have filed similar lawsuits against McKesson and the other large pharmaceutical distributors, and they are seeking millions of dollars in damages. This litigation is important, because these distributors must be held accountable for their role in this crisis. If they are not held to account, their egregious practices are likely to continue, putting the lives of more and more Americans in jeopardy.

McKesson Executives Scheduled for Depositions - Lee Javins

McKesson Corporation Seeks to Prevent Deposition of CEO in West Virginia Lawsuit

Last month, we reported on the upcoming depositions of top McKesson Corporation executives that have been scheduled as part of West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey’s lawsuit against the company. In 2016, the West Virginia AG’s office sued McKesson, the country’s largest pharmaceutical distributor, for failing to prevent the flood of opioids to West Virginia pharmacies, particularly to pharmacies in cities and counties where it was abundantly clear that the volume of pills shipped was way out of proportion with what is healthy for these small populations to consume.

The lawsuit was recently remanded from federal court back to Boone County Circuit Court, and depositions are scheduled for five of McKesson’s top executives (including CEO John Hammergren) later next month at the company’s headquarters in San Francisco. Lee Javins and Taylor Norman of Bailey, Javins, and Carter are two of the attorneys scheduled to question Hammergren and the other McKesson executives on behalf of the State of West Virginia.

Last week, McKesson lawyers filed a motion to shield Hammergren,their CEO since 2001, from having to take part in the depositions regarding the shipment of opioid pills to West Virginia. McKesson’s lawyers argued that forcing Hammergren to be deposed would be take up too much of his time and jeopardize McKesson’s operations by hindering the ability of their CEO to effectively perform his duties. Hammergren submitted an affidavit to the Boone County Circuit Court stating that he had “no first-hand knowledge” of McKesson’s opioid distribution in the State of West Virginia, and that he is not in charge of managing the company’s prescription drug order tracking system.

McKesson’s lawyers are invoking the apex doctrine, which asserts that high ranking corporate official can be shielded from being deposed when they have no unique, first-hand knowledge of the facts of the case, and when the plaintiff has failed to exhaust other less-intrusive methods of discovery. In this case, McKesson’s lawyers are saying that Hammergren has no first-hand knowledge of McKesson’s opioid distribution in the State of West Virginia, and that less intrusive means of discovery have not yet been explored by the State of West Virginia. They are making another argument that raises troubling questions, however.

At the heart of the motion filed by McKesson’s lawyers seems to be the precedent this would set. McKesson is facing upwards of 500 lawsuits regarding its opioid shipment practices, and the company is worried about opening the door to similar deposition requests in numerous other cases.

In filing their motion, McKesson lawyers argued, “[i]f Mr. Hammergren were forced to sit even for short depositions in only a fraction of those cases, his job would be transformed from chairman and CEO of a major corporation to professional deposition witness.”

They seem to be saying that because McKesson’s alleged pill-dumping practices are so widespread that they are the subject of hundreds of lawsuits, it is too much of a burden for their CEO to answer questions about it. Think about the precedent it sets to grant McKesson’s motion in this case. How would this not encourage other corporations from engaging in similarly egregious practices on a wide scale – knowing that the CEO could be shielded from answering important questions about such practices by simply invoking the apex doctrine? Also troubling is McKesson’s admission that its own CEO for the past 17 years claims to not have personal knowledge of the distribution of opioids into the State of West Virginia.

Attorney Javins has met privately with McKesson’s lawyers to discuss the upcoming depositions, but thus far, they have been unable to reach a resolution. The State hopes to be able to question all five executives who are scheduled to be deposed, including the CEO. Being able to talk to everyone involved under oath is the only way to ensure that we learn the truth about how so many opioid pills managed to make their way to remote and scarcely populated areas of West Virginia – becoming a major contributor to the current opioid crisis in the Mountain State.

expert testimony

The Role of an Expert Witness in an Injury Case

The person sipping coffee at a corner cafe who happened so see your accident take place could be a valuable witness to have in your corner. Likewise, the same holds true for any other drivers who saw what happened or pedestrians who are willing to testify about the events of your accident or the conditions that day. When there are disputed facts in a case, eyewitnesses can be invaluable, but they are not the only type of witness that can help your case.

What is an Expert Witness?

Expert witnesses are completely different from eye witnesses. In fact, they are not people who were present at your accident at all. Personal injury attorneys often use expert witnesses to protect their client’s rights and secure the best possible settlement in an injury case. An expert witness is someone who has expertise in a certain area either due to their education, training, or experience, and who is asked to testify using their expert knowledge in a case.

Why Use an Expert Witness in an Injury Case?

Even when you believe that the other party is clearly at fault or know that you have suffered a certain level of damages, the insurance company or their attorney may not cooperate. Insurance companies are not in the business of making large payouts and would instead rather protect their bottom line at all costs.

An expert witness can be used to help settle two different areas that might be in dispute: fault; and the valuation of damages. Let’s assume that the other side is alleging that you are more than 50% at fault in the accident. Because of West Virginia’s modified comparative negligence laws, this could bar you from collecting any damages in an injury case. An expert witness may be able to help you prove that you were either not at fault at all or less so than the insurance company claims.

The other way that experts are used are to prove damages. An insurance company may want to offer you a quick settlement that is much less than your case is worth. An expert witness can help prove that you have substantial damages that may include future medical care, lost earning capacity, and pain and suffering.

The Different Roles of Expert Witnesses

Not all witnesses are going to enter a courtroom to testify on your behalf. This is particularly the case with expert witnesses who may be consulting your legal team. A consulting expert will simply advise the plaintiff’s legal team according to their area of expertise. The other side may never know that an expert was used in your case. On the other hand, a testifying expert will go in front of a judge or jury to provide sworn testimony, so it is vital that these people are chosen with care.

The Various Types of Expert Witnesses in Injury Cases

Whether your personal injury attorney’s goal is to prove negligence or damages, some of the common types of witnesses used in injury cases include:

  • Accident Reconstruction Specialists. These experts will help prove liability by reconstructing accidents with data about vehicles, road and weather conditions, speed, and traffic signals.
  • Medical Experts. A medical expert can testify about the severity of injuries, the need for medical care, and the contribution of any pre-existing conditions.
  • Vocational Specialists. These experts can testify about the work you performed before the accident and the potential for lost earning capacity due to your injuries.
  • Designers and Engineers. If the accident was caused by a mechanical failure or design defect, these experts would be invaluable in proving your case.

Speak with a Qualified West Virginia Injury Lawyer Now

Even though many injury cases are settled without having to go to trial, you want the best legal team possible on your side to increase the chances of a favorable outcome. At Bailey, Javins & Carter, L.C. we have been helping the victims of some of West Virginia’s most severe accidents to hold the responsible parties accountable, often with the use of expert witnesses.

Our legal team will sit down with you and your loved ones, learn as much as possible about your situation, and take the steps necessary to protect your legal rights. If you have been injured through no fault of your own, we will work diligently to get you the compensation you need and deserve. Contact our Charleston office now at 800-497-0234 or reach us online to schedule a free consultation.