Car Accidents and PTSD

Studies published in the journal American Family Physician indicate that since the Vietnam war, car accidents have become the leading cause of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD is an anxiety disorder that occurs when a person witnesses or is involved in a traumatic or life-threatening event. The symptoms of PTSD may vary from one person to the next, but they are highly incapacitating in many cases. These symptoms include recurring dreams, flashbacks, hopelessness, extreme anxiety, insomnia, irritability, detachment from the public, loss of control, and problems with memory and concentration. These symptoms often become worse and more debilitating over time.

While it may seem like only extremely serious car accidents could result in PTSD, that’s not always true. PTSD sometimes does not surface until months after an accident. A person doesn’t have to be seriously physically injured in order to experience PTSD. However, it is important to document the signs and symptoms of PTSD, as well get a formal diagnosis from a licensed medical professional. A trial involving a PTSD diagnosis often will necessitate the results of psychological testing, assessments, and testimony by an expert witness. He or she can testify about the costs of treatment and the long-term prognosis.

Untreated symptoms can last for as many as ten years following a car accident, so it is important to seek appropriate treatment of PTSD. Treatment may include cognitive and behavioral therapy, among other things. Since it may take time for PTSD to surface, it is important to seek treatment as soon as possible after an accident if you suspect that PTSD is a possible diagnosis.

PTSD is only one of the many potential injuries that you or a loved one might suffer in an accident. As a result, you need the advice and counsel of an experienced lawyer who can determine your options, based on your situation, and help you make the decisions in your case that are best for you and your family. The Madison personal injury attorneys of Boller & Vaughan handle personal injury cases on a daily basis, and we know what it takes to get the compensation that you need. Take the first step and call our office today to set up your free consultation with one of our Wisconsin auto accident lawyers.

Survey Ranks States According to “Nice Driver” Rates

Kars 4 Kids recently launched a courteous driving campaign entitled #DriveHuman. The purpose of the campaign is make roads safer for drivers and passengers by discouraging bad driving behaviors that also are hazardous for everyone on the road. These behaviors include actions like tailgating,

A survey of 50 licensed drivers from each state revealed which states have the most courteous drivers, as well as the least courteous drivers. The results of the survey revealed that #1 Idaho had the most polite drivers, whereas #50 New York had the rudest drivers, a finding that is not much of a surprise to anyone.

Perhaps more surprising is the apparent rudeness of Wisconsin drivers, who came in at #46. According to the survey results, Wisconsin rated a C- when it comes to drivers responding aggressively to slow drivers, a D- for drivers allowing others to merge ahead of them in heavy traffic, and a C+ for responding rudely when a driver tailgates him or her. Wisconsin drivers do much better when it comes to using their turn signals (A), but apparently are notorious for stealing another person’s parking place (F). Wisconsin drivers also rated a D for speeding up in order to stop someone from passing them. Overall, drivers in Western states are the most courteous, as well as drivers nationwide from the ages of 51-64. Females are much more courteous drivers than men, in general.

At Boller & Vaughan, we know that suffering serious injuries in a motorcycle accident, auto accident, or any other type of traffic accident can be a stressful, emotional, physically painful, and financially draining event. Allow us to take some of the burden of this situation from you and your family by handling your personal injury claim, which will allow us to work toward getting you the compensation that you need and deserve. As skilled Madison personal injury lawyers, we are here to help you through this ordeal from a legal perspective, while you concentrate on healing from your injuries and recovering from the financial impact of the accident.

Medicare’s Observation Care Policy

The results of a recent study shows that low-income Medicare patients are often kept in the hospital for longer periods of time without being officially admitted than wealthier Medicare patients. Medicare requires that a patient who is admitted to the hospital to pay a fixed out-of-pocket fee that covers the bulk of the hospital stay, including follow-up acute nursing home care and repeated hospitalizations within two months of their release from the hospital. However, if the hospital only places a patient on observation status, rather than officially admitting him or her, the patient has many more out-of-pocket expenses that if he or she had been admitted to the hospital. For observation care, a patient must pay a one-time out-of-pocket fee , but also must pay 20% of all hospital service expenses and for certain drugs.

The study involved the 2013 Medicare claims of more than 67,000 patients who had combined hospital stays of more than 132,000. These patients came from 97% of the counties nationwide. When compared with the wealthiest 25% of patients, the poorest 25% of patients were 24% more likely to be hospitalized for more than three observation stays per year. Ironically, the wealthiest patients had the least risk of high out-of-pocket costs, and the risk was much higher for poorer patients. However, poorer patients also may be able to combat these high out-of-pocket costs with additional healthcare coverage, such as Medicaid.

As discussed above, there are many implications of Medicare’s observation care policy, including potentially higher costs for patients to pay for this service. Lengthier hospital and long-term care stays also can increase the potential for a loved one’s abuse and neglect. The Wisconsin elder abuse lawyers of Boller & Vaughan know how devastating it can be when you entrust your loved one to the care of others, only to have that trust completely betrayed. Our attorneys are dedicated to protecting your rights and those of your loved ones in all types of circumstances. We handle nursing home abuse and neglect cases on a daily basis, and we know how to get the relief to which you may be entitled. Don’t hesitate to fight back against a neglectful or abusive nursing care and assistance living facility that has caused harm to your loved one. Contact us today and see how we can help.

What is the Difference Between Economic and Noneconomic Damages?

Both economic and noneconomic damages are at issue in personal injury cases. Whether injuries result from a motor vehicle accident, a slip and fall accident, or other some type of incident, an individual whose negligent actions have caused injuries may be liable for damages stemming from those injuries.

Economic damages are the monetary losses related to an accident involving injuries. These damages are relatively easy to value in dollars and cents, because they often involve bills for goods and services. For instance if your car is damaged in an accident, the negligent person may be liable for property damages, such as the bill for repairing or replacing your car. Other economic damages might include medical bills, ambulance service expenses, and physical therapy costs.

On the other hand, noneconomic damages are much more difficult to value in terms of compensation. These are hardships suffered as a result of an accident that don’t necessarily have a monetary value. Therefore, it can take complex analysis in order to place a value on these damages. Noneconomic damages are capped under Wisconsin law at a total of $750,000. Some examples of noneconomic damages might be emotional distress, which encompasses conditions like depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Loss of companionship refers to the loss of a relationship with a spouse or other family member. Another type of noneconomic damages is disability and disfigurement. While you can’t really place a value on a permanent disfigurement resulting from an accident, and money will not fix the problem, you do deserve compensation for these types of hardships, as well.

Determining the full extent of economic and noneconomic damages in a personal injury case can be extremely complex. As a result, you will need an experienced personal injury lawyer to guide you through the claims process as appropriate. Each type of claim has strict requirements and deadlines that a claimant must meet in order to maintain a successful claim. Boller & Vaughan are Wisconsin motor vehicle accident lawyers who dedicate their practice to protecting the interests of the injured and their families. Contact our office today to set up your free consultation and learn what options are available to you.

What Are Medicaid Per Capita Caps and How Will They Affect Me?

Medicaid per capita caps are a feature of the American Health Care Act (AHCA), which is a bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in May. Although the AHCA is far from becoming law, and, in fact, may never become law, Medicaid per capita caps are a popular means of altering the payment structure between states and the federal government for state Medicaid programs.

Currently, the federal government pays for a certain share of the cost of medical care for individuals, while state governments pay for the remaining share. On the other hand, Medicaid per capita caps allow the federal government to put a limit on the total amount of funding that it would provide for each enrollee, with the states funding the remainder of care. If, as proposed, the cap went into effect in 2020, then the amount of the cap would be based upon states’ spending per enrollee in 2016. Thereafter, the amount of the cap would adjust according to the Consumer Price Index for Medical Care (CPI-1), and changes in the number of enrollees in specified eligibility categories.

Some researchers who analyzed the potential impact of Medicaid per capita caps on the American population made several interesting conclusions. For instance, putting Medicaid per capita caps into effect during the 2000s would have reduced funding for more than half the states. The required increases in state Medicaid funding would vary widely, from no changes in state funding to a 77% increase in state Medicaid funding to provide the current levels of service. Additionally, states with lower levels of Medicaid spending per enrollee, ironically, would be more likely to see funding decreases than those with higher levels of spending.

The overall impact of Medicaid per capita caps is unknown at this point, but it is likely to have a significant effect on many senior citizens. This can lead to seniors receiving substandard care, which, in turn, easily can lead to abuse and neglect. The nursing home abuse lawyers of Boller & Vaughan pride themselves on advocating on behalf of clients who suffer injuries at the hands of their caregivers, no matter whether those injuries from result from abuse or neglect in a nursing home or in any type of long-term care facility. We can seek compensation for you through the legal system, while you and your family can concentrate on healing, recovering from any trauma that you might have experienced, and moving on with your life. Don’t hesitate to contact our office today and learn how we can help.

How to Address Commercial Driver Fatigue

Given the long hours that commercial truck drivers tend to spend on the road, it is no wonder that commercial driver fatigue has become a problem that leads to accidents causing injuries or even death. The North American Fatigue Management Plan (NAFMP) is designed to address and this issue and eliminate it as much as possible, through fatigue management education, corporate culture development, and information on sleep disorders and techniques to avoid fatigue.

NAFMP is a coalition of American and Canadian regulators and carriers who have worked together to develop a comprehensive plan to deal with professional driver fatigue. These partners used focus groups with motor carriers to assist in the design of the plan, developed educational trainings and materials, conducted operational field tests with 77 Canadian and American drivers, and, finally, created model guidelines to combat commercial driver fatigue.

Through presentations, and online courses and modules, drivers can learn how to effectively prevent fatigue and the accidents that inevitably occur because of it. However, education is not only for drivers. NAFMP also offers driver fatigue information geared toward dispatchers, driver managers, motor carrier executives and managers, freight shippers and receivers, carrier safety managers, and spouses and families of drivers. Various downloads are also available to supplement the courses and modules. By having everyone on board when it comes to preventing commercial driver fatigue, NAFMP hopes to encourage a culture that recognizes and does not allow for driver fatigue. This, in turn, is likely to prevent many of the accidents that are arguably caused in full and in part by commercial truck driver fatigue.

Commercial driver fatigue is a real problem that leads to truck accidents that cause injuries to multiple people, and even death. Given the high amount of commercial truck traffic on our nation’s roadways, it is essential that NAFMP, trucking companies, and drivers themselves hopefully can prevent driver fatigue before it happens. This will lessen the incidences of fatigue-related crashes on roads and highways. For more information about how to properly handle your personal injury claim, contact the Wisconsin personal injury lawyers of Boller & Vaughan today.

Seniors More Likely to Drop Medicare Advantage as Health Declines

National Public Radio (NPR) recently aired a piece about a recent report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) regarding the number of senior enrollees dropping out of Medicare Advantage health plans. These plans are privately-run health care plans that enroll about one-third of Medicare enrollees, or about 19,000 patients. The goal of these plans is to keep costs down for enrollees by using cost-conscious networks of doctors and healthcare facilities. However, the GAO report questions whether these plans are leaving their sickest enrollees worse off than they were before.

In completing its report, the GAO reviewed 126 Medicare Advantage plans. Of those plans, the GAO found that 35 of those plans had disproportionately high rates of sicker seniors opting out of coverage.  Twenty-four of those plans had one out of every five patients leave the plan in 2014, which is a much higher rate than usual. The main reason that seniors left the plans, according to the GAO, was the difficulties that they had in accessing preferred doctors, hospitals, and healthcare facilities. The sicker the seniors were, thus requiring more medical care, the more likely they were to drop out of the Medicare Advantage plans.

The GAO recommended that federal health officials strongly consider rejecting the plans in questions, stating that the high patient turnover rates for very sick patients was a sign of substandard care. A spokeswoman for the industry trade group America’s Health Insurance Plans, however, stated that the patient turnover was simply the result of a free marketplace, which enables patients to switch to cheaper and more inclusive plans as they wish.

The loss of Medicare advantage plans can be substantial, particularly as a senior citizen continues to decline in health. An inability to fund necessary care can result in individuals having inadequate care, whether it is by an in-home caregiver, assisted living facility, or other long-term care program, and makes them very vulnerable to abuse and neglect by caregivers. The community based residential facility (CBRF) lawyers of Boller & Vaughan are experienced in ensuring that nursing homes and other elderly care facilities live up to reasonable standards in caring for their residents. When a nursing home or other type of facility fails to do so, and injury to a resident occurs, the facility may be liable for those injuries. We know how to investigate your case, assess your situation and determine whether you or your loved one has any potential claims against nursing home staff or the nursing home itself. Contact Boller & Vaughan today and learn how we can help you through this difficult situation.

Medicare Savings Program

Justice in Aging recently published an article that explored how proposed cuts to Medicaid can put Medicare savings programs at risk. For many low-income adults, Medicare coverage is only possible through Medicare savings programs, which help them pay for premiums, deductibles, and co-pays. These programs assist over seven million older Americans with Medicare costs. The Better Care Reconciliation Act, which is currently being considered in the U.S. Senate, will include $772 billion in cuts to Medicaid. If this Act passes, many older Americans could no longer take advantage of these programs, which means that they would be unable to afford Medicare at all. As a result, the low-income seniors, who arguably have the greatest needs, will lose access to Medicare benefits.

The importance of Medicare benefits for this demographic is great. Medicare covers the costs of basic medical care, like hospital visits, routine doctor visits, specialist visits, among other services. Medicare Part D also offers prescription drug coverage. While the coverage is extensive, it is not without significant costs to the recipient. The monthly premium for the Part B benefit is $134.00, and the deductible is $183.00. There are also co-pays under the Part B benefit that typically are 20% of the cost of the medical service in question. The Part A benefit, which covers hospital services, has a deductible of $1,316.00. In fact, in 2011, the average Medicare beneficiary paid $5,368.00 in out-of-pocket medical costs. Therefore, it is essential that Medicare program savings be preserved, which will not be the case under the Better Care Reconciliation Act.

If Congress opts to essentially defund Medicare savings programs, the economic impact for seniors, and particularly for low-income seniors, will be great. With more of their income being spent on necessary medical care and services, seniors will have fewer resources to fund long-term care, which is a cost that Medicare doesn’t cover. As a result, the only options for long-term care may be of lower quality and standards of care, which only increases the possibility of abuse.

Boller & Vaughan knows the devastation that can occur when staff members at nursing homes and other long-term care facilities abuse or neglect vulnerable residents. Fortunately, we have the knowledge and the experience to help you through any type of elder abuse or neglect claim. No matter what type of nursing home facility abuse or neglect is at issue in your case, we can help. All too often, residents and their families are reluctant to demand justice for situations that occurred in the resident’s care. In this situation, you can count on your Madison elderly abuse attorneys to guide you through every step of the personal injury claims process.

What If I’m Hurt in an Accident and Have a Pre-Existing Injury?

Under Wisconsin law, insurance covers situations in which a motor vehicle accident aggravates a preexisting medical condition in an accident victim. This often is referred to the “take your victim as you find him”  or “eggshell” doctrine under common law. This means that it doesn’t matter what medical condition the individual was at the time of the accident. A driver who acted negligently in causing the accident is responsible not only for new injuries to the victim, but also for any aggravation or worsening of an existing condition. However, he or she is only liable to the extent that his or her negligence directly and naturally caused the aggravation of a preexisting condition.

In order to hold a driver responsible for exacerbating an accident victim’s preexisting condition, the injury victim must prove that it is more probable than not that the accident changed or aggravated the victim’s condition to a degree that was significant enough to be caused by the accident. There must be a direct causal connection between the accident and the worsening of the preexisting condition, or between the victim’s present condition and the injuries related to the accident.

If you can prove that the driver that caused the accident that led to the worsening of your medical condition, then the driver may be liable, or financially responsible, for the medical bills, lost wages, pain, and suffering caused by the injuries. The driver also will be responsible for any other damages that naturally flow as a result of the accident, injuries, and worsening of a preexisting medical condition. No matter what kind of preexisting condition is at issue, the driver who acted in a negligent manner may be responsible for the injuries that aggravated the condition.

When an accident causes serious injuries to you or a loved one, the impact can be devastating. Although some accidents are just that – accidents – others are caused by the negligence of another person. If you are in this situation, you may be entitled to compensation for your losses. Contact Boller & Vaughan today and learn how our Wisconsin personal injury attorneys can advocate on your behalf.

Paying for Home Health Care

In today’s America, about 15% of the population is age 65 or older, a figure that only will continue to increase over the next few decades as the baby boomer generation reaches retirement age. As our population ages, the demand for senior health care will continue to drastically increase, in the form of nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and home health care services. One characteristic of the individuals from the baby boomer generation, however, is the desire for senior care on their own terms. Rather than having no choice but to enter a nursing home, baby boomers want to be able to stay in their communities and homes as they grow older. This means a higher demand for community based residential facilities, assisted living facility, and home health care.

The burden of funding long-term care choices such as home health care is largely left to the states. In most cases, Medicaid is the source of most funds for home-based and community-based care; however, states can opt not to provide this coverage through their Medicaid programs if they choose. While all states and the District of Columbia have some form of home or community-based care program, there typically is a waiting list for these services. Nursing homes, on the other hand, receive about 59% of the Medicaid funding. Several states are currently at odds trying to figure out where the money will come from to fund home health services and community-based care.

There are possible solutions to the problem of funding home-health care and similar programs, but few states have taken advantage of them. For example, aside from simply appropriating more money in a state’s budget to pay for these programs, a state may be able to get a federal waiver to offer respite care and training for unpaid caregivers, who are usually family members, or enact legislation that allows nurses to delegate certain types of tasks to aides.

At Boller & Vaughan, we are here to stand up for the rights of senior citizens and their families who have suffered substantial injuries, whether physical, emotional, or financial, while under the care of those are supposed to prevent such injuries from occurring. Contact us today at (608) 268-0268, set up an appointment with one of our Wisconsin home health care abuse attorneys, and discover how we can help.

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