Common Back and Spine Injuries After an Accident

Does your back hurt after a car or work accident in West Virginia (WV)?

If your spine has been injured, you know the pain can be excruciating, debilitating, and unending.  Back and spine injuries are some of the most common injuries that permanently alter our clients’ lives after a car wreck or workplace accident.   The insurance companies will attempt to minimize the amount of compensation you receive for your back injury, especially if you have a prior history of back pain that has been aggravated and made considerably worse by this traumatic event.  Our office frequently receives calls concerning spinal injuries, especially to the lower vertebrae, and the Robinette Legal Group has consistently obtained excellent results for our seriously injured clients.

Spinal cord injuries include:

  • Herniated discs: Fluid in the discs between any vertebrae ruptures, causing partial arm paralysis and pain
  • Fractured vertebrae: Can happen anywhere along the spinal column. Individual vertebrae break or disconnect, leading to possible paralysis below the fracture.
  • Cervical injuries: Injuries to the spine near the neck usually result in full or partial paralysis. A broken neck is a type of cervical injury.
  • Thoracic injuries: Mid-back area of the spine. Often results in paralysis or partial immobility of arms and legs.
  • Lumbar and sacral injuries: Lower spine injuries often result in mobility problems or paralysis of hips, as well as effects on the urinary tract and digestive tract.

A spinal cord injury doesn’t always mean paralysis. Many spine injuries suffered in accidents go undetected as hairline fractures on the vertebrae. There may be only minor symptoms, which may go away over time, leaving the victim to believe that no serious injury occurred.

In time, however, even a minor spinal cord injury can progress to a serious problem, requiring surgery and years of medical treatment. At their worst, a spinal cord injury can progress to paralysis and organ damage.

Get the Help You Need From Experienced Professionals

If you or a loved one has been in an accident and is noticing back pain or other nerve damage, make sure a medical specialist considers the possibility of a spinal cord injury. The West Virginia spinal cord injury lawyers of the Robinette Legal Group have extensive experience representing clients involved in spinal cord injury claims.

Jeff Robinette is a former insurance defense attorney who now exclusively represents plaintiffs injured by someone else’s negligence.  I use my courtroom experience and knowledge of the insurance litigation system to provide vigorous, effective representation for people who need to recover full and fair money damages for serious injuries that forever change our clients’ work and daily lives.

Free Books for WV Accident Victims:

Spinal cord injuries don’t go away on their own. If you have been injured, you may face a lifetime of medical treatment and financial loss. Our firm will fight hard to help you recover the full and fair money damages you are entitled to.

To learn more about what actions you should take — and must avoid — after an accident, order a FREE copy of our latest book Righting the Wrong:  West Virginia Serious Injury Guide.  You can obtain this book by contacting us through our website or by calling us at 304-594-1800 today.

We welcome your call and would be glad to answer your questions concerning your serious back or spinal injury.

Ronald McDonald House Facebook Fundraiser


JUST CLICK “Like.” Raise money to help sick kids and their families.  Pretty easy, right?

That’s what local lawyer Jeff Robinette and his wife, Terri, thought when they came up with an idea to fundraise for the Ronald McDonald House in Morgantown.

For each “like” Robinette Legal Group got on Facebook, the Robinettes donated $10 to Ronald McDonald House. Two days — and 1,000 “likes” later — they reached their $10,000 goal.

In a post, the Robinettes explained their decision to do the Facebook campaign rather than just donate to the charity. In addition to the donation, 41,707 people learned about the Ronald McDonald House’s goal to raise money to build a new family room; 4,791 talked about the campaign on Facebook; people had a chance to discuss how the Ronald McDonald House has affected their lives, which could have led others to donate; and the Legal Group got 1,000 likes.

“After all, it is no easy task to get people to like a lawyer,” they joked.
Ronald McDonald House Executive Director Steve De Jesus said the family room will be in WVU Children’s Hospital right across from the pediatric intensive care unit, so that family members don’t have to go far from their children to get a meal or a shower or to decompress for a few minutes. The family room will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The Ronald McDonald House is only a few minutes away by foot from the hospital, but De Jesus said, for parents of critically ill children, a few minutes is an eternity.
They’ve been fundraising since April and have raised $135,000. The room is expected to cost about $275,000.
De Jesus said they were stunned by — and very appreciative of — how quickly the Robinettes were able to get “likes” on Facebook.

“In two days, we raised $10,000,” he said. “I wish we could do that every two days.”
Jeff Robinette couldn’t believe it either. “People were clicking so fast, you could watch the numbers climb by the hundreds in a couple hours,” he said. They were happy to help.

“The Ronald McDonald House has a long history in Morgantown of providing services to families and children,” Robinette said.

Robinette said they know people who have had children with health problems and could have benefited from a family room.

To donate to the Ronald McDonald House’s family room project, visit or mail a check to 841 Country Club Road, Morgantown, W.Va. 26505.

Source:  Dominion Post, October 11, 2012, by Brandy Brubaker

Strategies for Concerned Parents: Bullying in Schools

What can you do as a parent? 

Few things are are heart-wrenching as knowing that your child may be a victim of bullying and feeling like your school is not doing enough to counter the problem.

The following are a few tips for parents — knowing how to best respond:

Do not try to fight violence with violence. Taking matters into your own hands could lead to more severe problems for you and your child.

Where bullying exisits, the most important thing is documentation.  Document who, what, where, when.  Try to get the testimony of other people who witnessed the conflicts.  Often when two or more people confront the bully directly, for instance a school administrator or teacher and witnesses, it can make a difference.  When one person speaks up with courage, often others will step forward.

  • If your child is sexually harassed or bullied, it is best to take action right away.
  • Certainly if there is a physical contact of any kind call the police. This includes shoving, hitting, slapping, tripping, punching and so forth.
  • Talk to the teachers and the school principal immediately and as soon as you find out the facts. It is important to document the times places or witnesses carefully so you can give detailed information to the school; if there are injuries take photographs.
  • If you do not get results within a couple of days, write the school district and demand an immediate response to the problem.
  • If there is violence, the police should be called and the school should be notified immediately.
  • Once you have resolved the particular bullying situation you are concerned about, consider lobbying for and supporting laws to punish school bullies in your state.
  • Many public school districts have adopted a “Zero Tolerance Policy” against bullying of any kind. Schools have a duty to provide safe premises and maintain reasonable supervision and discipline in the interest of all students.

October 25-26 Conference on Bullying —  Waterfront Place, Morgantown, WV — The Schools Care:

The West Virginia Regional Conference on Bullying,hosted by the School Safety Advocacy Council and co-hosted by RESA 7, will be held Oct. 25-26, at Waterfront Place Hotel.
The conference will feature national speakers, including Curtis Lavarello, the nation’s leading authority on school safety and schoolbased policing; Lt. Sean Burke, former chairman of the School Safety Technical Working Group for the U.S. Department of Justice; Vanessa Snow, general counsel for the School Safety Advocacy Council; Lt. Tim Enos, Sarasota County (Fla.) Sheriff ’s Office; and Dr. Dawn LeBlanc, a nationally recognized expert and presenter in the area of school violence offender recognition.

Maureen Underwood, a clinical social worker and certified group psychotherapist, will speak on suicide, grief, trauma and crisis resolution for children and families.
More than 250 people have registered to take part.

Info: Jeovanna Lacaria, RESA 7, 304-624-6554 ext. 222 .

Tips provided by Robinette Legal Group, PLLC:   Morgantown, WV Catastrophic Personal Injury and Wrongful Death Attorneys.  We generally do not take bullying cases, but as parents we care about kids and their families.


Ten Warning Signs for Senior Drivers

Should Grandma and Grandpa Still Be Driving?

For those of us who find ourselves in the “sandwich” generation , we are concerned about our teenage and young adult drivers.  At the same time, we also worry about the safety of our aging parents on our curvy and sometimes slippery West Virginia roads.  Statistics tell us that fatality rates for drivers begin to climb after age 65. From ages 75 to 84, the rate of about three deaths per 100 million miles driven is equal to the death rate of teenage drivers.  Even more concerning, for drivers 85 and older, the fatality rate skyrockets to nearly four times higher than that for teens.  If you are in that difficult position of caring for an aging parent or grandparent, the following are some signs to be looking for in evaluating your loved one’s driving safety, especially if prescription pain medicines or the onset of dementia are issues.

Ten Signs That it is Time to Stop or Limit Driving:

  1. Almost crashing, with frequent “close calls”
  2. Finding dents and scrapes on the car, on fences, mailboxes, garage doors, curbs, etc.
  3. Getting lost, especially in familiar locations
  4. Having trouble seeing or following traffic signals, road signs, and pavement markings
  5. Responding more slowly to unexpected situations, or having trouble moving their foot from the gas to the brake pedal; confusing the two pedals
  6. Misjudging gaps in traffic at intersections and on highway entrance and exit ramps
  7. Experiencing road rage or causing other drivers to honk or complain
  8. Easily becoming distracted or having difficulty concentrating while driving
  9. Having a hard time turning around to check the rear view while backing up or changing lanes
  10. Receiving multiple traffic tickets or “warnings” from law enforcement officers

Even if we know or suspect any of the above indicators to be true, do we really want to be the ones to tell an aging parent that it is time to give up the keys?  As people advance in age, it seems that they are losing more than they are gaining, and giving up independence and mobility is going to be a hard blow.  “Having a professional involved can keep family relationships intact,” said Pam Bartle, a driver rehab specialist at Marianjoy Rehabilitation Hospital in Wheaton, Ill.  It’s a hard choice for people. They can’t imagine how they’ll manage without driving.   Getting a doctor or occupational therapist involved can shift the hard choice to a neutral professional, rather than a close family member.

Insights from a Driver Safety Professional

Glenard Munson, a corporate trainer, business owner, driver safety trainer with 30 years’ experience, and award-winning author and speaker on driver safety issues shares his insights:

“One PART of the solution (I am a senior who teaches driving, both novice and remedial) is for physicians and LEO’s to enforce their own regulations requiring reporting of irregular driving.  Families also have a moral obligation to report ANY family member, irrespective of age, for erroneous/irresponsible driving.

Once reported, most states REQUIRE a minimum of a written test to re-evaluate the driver in question, and/or a drive test to subjectively, (no drive test is completely OBJECTIVE), evaluate the driver’s skillset. I take many seniors and or medically-tagged drivers out for lessons, and I find that, over my 20 years+ of experience, that roughly 2/3rds of those tagged by the DMV/LEO/Doctor were correctly evaluated.

It is hard for me to tell anyone that they will need to give up their driving privilege, but an independent desire to drive does NOT outweigh the safety and security of the public at large.”

Simple Tests for Doctors to Use in Evaluating Older Drivers:

Today, the American Medical Association recommends that doctors administer a few simple tests in advising older drivers.

  • Walk 10 feet down the hallway, turn around and come back. Taking longer than nine seconds is linked to driving problems.
  • On a page with the letters A to L and the numbers 1 to 13 randomly arranged, see how quickly and accurately you draw a line from 1 to A, then to 2, then to B and so on. This so-called trail-making test measures memory, spatial processing and other brain skills, and doing poorly has been linked to at-fault crashes.
  •  Check if people can turn their necks far enough to change lanes, and have the strength to slam on brakes.

Dr. Gary Kennedy, geriatric psychiatry chief at New York’s Montefiore Medical Center, often adds another question: Are his patients allowed to drive their grandchildren?  ‘‘If the answer to that is no, that’s telling me the people who know the patient best have made a decision that they’re not safe,’’ Kennedy said.

Restrictions can Prolong Driving Independence

Rather than prematurely taking away the privilege of driving from a person who may still have the ability to safely drive for several more years, individually assigned restrictions may be the answer to prolonging an aging person’s independence for as long as possible.  Restrictions similar to those assigned to teenage drivers may include no driving on high-speed roads, driving outside a certain area, or driving at night.  These restrictions would increase safety for those with visual impairments, prescription medication dependence, and impaired physical mobility.

The best situation, of course, is when the older driver independently comes to the conclusion that they need to limit or quit driving, but in cases involving dementia, Alzheimer’s, and plain stubbornness, a consensus of caring adults may be needed to persuade that older driver that “the time has come.”  A great rule of thumb is to “let everything you do be done with love.”  That principle should especially apply to those older folks to whom we need to show the most honor and respect, while at the same time, looking out for their personal safety and the safety of other drivers on the road.  Remember, they had the same concerns about you when you were young!

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The Dominion Post, “Families Key, but Docs have a Big Role in Driving Decisions,” AP: Lauran Neergaard, Associated Press writer Carla K. Johnson in Chicago contributed to this report,Washington, September 27, 2012.

Website:  AARP: “10 Signs that it’s Time to Limit or Stop Driving,”, January 2010.

Risk Factors for Senior Drivers in West Virginia

When is it Time to Hand over the Keys?

Since 1863, the West Virginia State Motto has been Montani Semper Liberi, or “Mountaineers are Always Free.”  We love and value our freedom, no matter what our age.  One of the greatest freedoms we possess in this country is the freedom to travel without restrictions, usually by car.  Ask older folks in the nursing homes what they miss the most, and many will tell you that they miss the ability to drive when and where they like.

According to the U.S Census Bureau’s population estimates by age and gender, West Virginia remains among the oldest states in the nation. The median age of West Virginians is 40.5 years (third highest) and the share of those who are 65 years or older is 16.2 percent (second highest), and these percentages are predicted to rise every year. As the number of older drivers increases, senior-driver safety is becoming more relevant for many families. With years of experience behind the wheel, older drivers likely are among the safest on the road. However, skills and abilities required for safe driving do deteriorate with age. The “silver tsunami” or great increase in the percentage of seniors driving in West Virginia raises the question of how families and doctors must be working together to determine if and when age-related health problems — from arthritis to frailty to Alzheimer’s disease — are severe enough to impair driving.

A recent hit-and-run tragedy in West Virginia illustrates the need for families to keep a watchful eye on Alzheimer’s patients in their care.

The investigation of a fatal hit and run accident in Kanawha County this week took an unexpected turn when sheriff’s deputies learned that the woman behind the wheel of the vehicle which struck Terry Stanley, 50, of Hernshaw, was an 80-year-old who suffers from Alzheimer’s.

The sheriff commented:  “We know from past dealings with individuals with Alzheimer’s and dementia they are at times able to sneak off and get into a vehicle without the knowledge of family members.”

Investigators said the woman had a valid driver’s license.

Fatality rates for drivers begin to climb after age 65, according to a recent study by Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh and the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, based on data from 1999-2004. From ages 75 to 84, the rate of about three deaths per 100 million miles driven is equal to the death rate of teenage drivers. For drivers 85 and older, the fatality rate skyrockets to nearly four times higher than that for teens.

Risk Factors Linked to Aging Process

Specific physical and cognitive abilities may decline with advancing age such as changes in vision, hearing and reaction time. However, there are large individual differences in the onset and degree of functional impairments, so age alone does not provide sufficient information to judge driving ability. Still, functional impairments can interfere with driving and may become particularly evident in stressful or challenging driving situations such as merging or changing lanes.

Several studies have shown that higher levels of physical, cognitive or visual impairment among older drivers are associated with increased risk of crash involvement. Statistically, fatal crash rates begin to increase at age 75. Per mile traveled, crash rates and fatal crash rates start increasing at about age 70.

A study of older drivers’ elevated fatal crash rates per mile traveled between 1993 and 1997 revealed that the main factor was not seniors’ over-involvement in crashes but their fragility, defined as the risk of death in a crash. Fragility increased starting around ages 60-64 and continued to rise with age.

Compared with younger drivers, senior drivers are more likely to be involved in certain types of collisions — angle crashes, overtaking or merging crashes, and especially intersection crashes. Studies of senior-involved crashes have found that failure to yield the right-of-way is the most common error among seniors.

Many older drivers also take medications with side effects which can impair driving ability of both young and old. As a person ages, their muscle mass and liver and kidney functions decline, so that person’s ability to metabolize (break down, use, and eliminate) medicines declines as well, leaving a higher concentration of medications in the body which may affect response time and driving ability.

Simple Restrictions can Prolong Driving Independence

Rather than prematurely taking away the privilege of driving from a person who may still have the ability to safely drive for several more years, individually assigned restrictions may be the answer to prolonging an aging person’s independence for as long as possible. Restrictions similar to those assigned to teenage drivers may include no driving on high-speed roads, driving outside a certain area, or driving at night. These restrictions would increase safety for those with visual impairments, prescription medication dependence, and impaired physical mobility.

Study Finds that Warning Patients of Risk Greatly Reduces Collisions

A large study from Canada in 2011 found another key component in reducing serious crash injuries among older drivers: simply having the doctors warn patients, and tell driving authorities that the older patient may be medically unfit to be on the road. Where this has occurred, there’s a drop in serious crash injuries among those drivers. The study, in the New England Journal of Medicine, couldn’t tell if the improvement was because those patients drove less, or drove more carefully once the doctors pointed out the risk.

While the study included adult drivers of all ages — for conditions ranging from epilepsy to sleep disorders, alcoholism to dementia — most were over age 60. This study highlighted one reason physicians don’t like to get involved: About 1 in 5 of the patients who were warned changed doctors. There also was an uptick in reports of depression.

Doctors aren’t necessarily trained to evaluate driving ability, and the study couldn’t tell if some drivers were targeted needlessly, noted Dr. Matthew Rizzo, of the University of Iowa. Yet he considered the research valuable. ‘‘The message from this paper is that doctors have some wisdom in knowing when to restrict drivers,’’ Rizzo said. His own research shows some cognitive tests might help them better identify who’s at risk, such as by measuring ‘‘useful field of view,’’ essentially how much your brain gleans at a glance — important for safety in intersections.

Other families turn to driver rehabilitation specialists, occupational therapists who can spend up to four hours evaluating an older driver’s vision, memory, cognition and other abilities before giving him a behind-the-wheel driving test. Some doctors and state licensing authorities order those evaluations, but programs can be hard to find, often have waiting lists and cost several hundred dollars that insurance may not cover.

Having a professional involved can keep family relationships intact, said Pam Bartle, a driver rehab specialist at Marianjoy Rehabilitation Hospital in Wheaton, Ill.

Still, “you could have the sweetest, nicest little old lady and she’ll turn on you on a dime if you tell her she can’t drive,” Bartle said. “It’s a desperate thing for people. They can’t imagine how they’ll manage without driving.”

Driving Safety Tips provided by the Robinette Legal Group, PLLC: — Morgantown, WV Car Accident Injury Lawyers

Source: The Dominion Post, “Families Key, but Docs have a Big Role in Driving Decisions,” AP: Lauran Neergaard, Associated Press writer Carla K. Johnson in Chicago contributed to this report,Washington, September 27, 2012.