Ear Injury Lawsuits and Tinnitus Claims
If you have suffered a traumatic ear injury or tinnitus as the result of someone else’s carelessness or a defective product, the law provides you with a remedy.
Hearing Loss Claims
Traumatic hearing loss can occur as the result of carelessness or a defective product. Lawsuits involving traumatic hearing loss can bring substantial verdicts or settlements.
Airbags Save Lives, But at What Cost?
Air bags save lives. They can also destroy hearing. The explosion of an airbag can create a deafening roar producing tremendous ear pain, loud ringing, and bleeding from the ear canals. When airbags are deployed, they are associated with an inherent risk of a high-amplitude, short-duration noise from deployment. The peak amplitude may exceed 170 dB sound pressure level.
Airbag litigation is complex. One reason is that airbags are safety devices. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration produces estimates of the many lives airbags have saved and the countless injuries they have prevented. They are designed to inflate rapidly to prevent occupants from striking hard against interior objects such as steering wheels. Therefore, unless there was something truly defective about the airbag, an injury alone does not justify litigation.
The most successful cases involve non-deployment, late deployment, and “aggressive” (excessively powered) airbags. Sensor and/or wiring problems in the vehicle can lead to late or non-deployment. The NHTSA reported that in 2004 more than 1.4 million recalls were related to airbag safety problems. An accident reconstruction investigation must begin while the car is in its original post-crash condition. These cases are very expensive to pursue and should be handled only by law firms with a proven track record of success in airbag litigation.
When an air bag deploys, a large percentage of people suffer from ringing in the ears, punctured eardrums, significant disequilibrium, and/or hearing loss. The hearing loss is likely caused either by the acoustic trauma of the deployment or by the contact of the patient’s face or ear with an airbag.
Litigating Tinnitus and Hearing Loss Claims
A doctor can easily determine if the eardrums have been ruptured. They may heal in two to three weeks, but scar tissue can affect the ability to hear low sounds. The ringing can be permanent. Inner ear damage can affect high-frequency hearing. Tinnitus, also known as ringing in the ears, can be a debilitating condition. If it is brought on by trauma, it may be compensable in a personal injury lawsuit.
How does one prove to the jury what the tinnitus sufferer experiences? How the claim is presented will affect the jury’s evaluation of the damages. The American Tinnitus Association offers a CD on “Sounds of Tinnitus.” Tinnitus has many different sounds. The client is likely to find one or more sounds on the CD similar to what he or she hears. These inexpensive CDs are available at www.ata.org. I successfully used one in a recent case and it settled shortly after I sent the CD to the insurance adjuster.
He was impressed with the CD and concerned with how a jury would react. In every personal injury case, you want to convey what the client experiences to the judge, the jury, opposing counsel, and the insurance adjuster. In this case, they would be able to hear what the client hears, which helps them fully appreciate the effect the accident had on the plaintiff. As a result, the jury is more likely to return a large verdict. That is why the case settled successfully.
You can also download the Emergency Broadcasting tone we have all heard on the radio or television. By placing it on a loop and playing it for the jury, the jury will literally get into the head of the plaintiff. Of course, the client must testify that this is the sound he or she hears. Request that each juror place a finger in their ear and imagine hearing that ringing every second they are awake. You can ask what that disturbance in hearing is worth. These techniques are very effective in producing large verdicts and settlements.
A high percentage of people involved in car accidents in which the air bag deploys may suffer from ringing in the ears, punctured ear drums, significant dysequilibrium and/or hearing loss. The nerve hearing loss is likely caused either by the acoustic trauma of an airbag deployment or by the contact of the patient’s face or ear with an airbag.
A doctor can easily determine if the eardrums have been ruptured. They may heal in 2-3 weeks, but possibly with scar tissue that can affect the ability to hear low sounds. The ringing could be permanent. Inner ear damage can affect high-frequency hearing.
Many people have experienced tinnitus (ringing in the ears) and/or hearing loss when air bags deploy. The results of researcher Richard Price’s studies indicate that 17% of the people exposed to deployed air bags experience permanent hearing loss. His data also shows that airbag deployment is more damaging to our ears when we have the windows rolled down. This seems surprising, but it can be explained.
The higher pressure generated in the closed cabin prevents greater damage to the ear. The pressure causes a displacement in the middle ear that stiffens a small bone outside the inner ear. This limits the transmission of energy to the inner ear, where hearing damage takes place. In airbag experiments where the cabin is completely sealed and pressure is even higher, hearing damage is reduced even further. Price’s study only included cars sold in the United States. American cars have larger, more powerful airbags than cars sold in Europe. Cars with smaller airbags would likely pose less auditory danger.
An air bag going off causes just as much damage to your ears whether you are going 15 miles an hour or 80 miles an hour. So drive carefully, regardless of your speed.
In addition to direct client representation, we offer nationwide referrals so that you can find a personal injury specialist in your area. Evan Aidman has established a national network of personal injury attorneys who are ready, willing and able to help you, regardless of the injury.
Legal Case Studies Involving Hearing Loss
Henry, age 45, sustained a slight hearing loss (initially 25db, after 6 months now 15db) with permanent tinnitus (ringing in the ears). Tinnitus can be extremely debilitating and can lead to settlements well into six figures. Henry was sitting in his backyard when a neighbor shot a bottle rocket into his backyard and it exploded only a few feet from his head. He sustained no injuries other than the hearing loss and the tinnitus. He did not need a hearing aid, but he does need a radio to sleep at night to overcome the ringing in his ears. Henry’s arbitration award was $95,000 for permanent ringing in the ear. A particularly effective way to obtain a large and fair award is to ask the arbitrators, judge or members of the jury to put themselves in the shoes of the injured victim. By getting the arbitrators to put their little finger in their ear and asking them what that disturbance in hearing is worth, an excellent result was assured.
Ron, a 67 year old man purchased a Bostitch nail gun to build and install cabinets in his home. Shortly after using the nail gun for this project (he would often put his head inside the cabinets when he was constructing them) he permanently lost hearing in one ear. He has been to 2 ear specialists who confirmed that his hearing loss is due to using the nail gun without wearing ear protection. There is no warning about potential hearing loss and no suggestion about wearing ear protection on the product’s box. In the manual there is some small print that says that ear protection should be worn when using the product–client never saw this warning before the injury occurred. What do you think? Should Ron be able to recovery damages against Bostitch for failure to warn?