February 2011 Archives

H.R. 5 Approved by House Judiciary Committee

February 28, 2011

The Unites States House Judiciary Committee has just voted to approve H.R. 5, which is also known as the Help Efficient, Accessible, Low-cost, Timely Healthcare Act. Proponents of the bill claim it will reduce rising health care costs and has received support from many House Republicans and some House Democrats.

Under H. R. 5, supporters of the bill aim to restrict compensatory damages in a lawsuit to $250,000 for non-economic damages. If this bill becomes law, a Chicago medical malpractice lawyer would only be able to sue for this amount of money for pain and suffering incurred by any type of medical error.

The bill also aims to establish a national statute of limitations defining how long a person has to file a malpractice lawsuit from the date that the incident occurred. Finally, the bill would place limitations on an attorney' fees in a health care lawsuit.

This bill is predicted to pass in the House as long as it maintains its current level of support. However, initial findings indicate that H.R. 5 faces a lot of opposition from Democrats in the Senate. Those that are opposed to this bill are specifically at odds with the cap placed on non-economic damages. These damages pertain to any compensation that is awarded for emotional pain and suffering stemming from medical error, physical impairment, or disfigurement.

Although the President has recently called for malpractice law liability reform in his State of the Union address, he is in opposition of placing caps on non-economic damages.

A number of patient' rights advocates have pointed out many lawsuits in which the $250,000 cap would simply not suffice and serve as a substantial enough amount of money given the level of emotional pain and suffering caused by the medical error. Many of the lawsuits that patients' rights advocates are using to illustrate their cause have been filed on behalf of people with birth defects that have caused severe impairment that will last the victim for life.

Expert Tips to Protect Yourself from a Medical Error

February 26, 2011

There are published reports indicating that as many as one hundred thousand people die every year due to preventable medical errors. These alarming statistics place medical errors as one of the top causes of death in our country. According to a number of health care organizations and patients' advocacy groups, there are plenty of ways that Americans can safeguard themselves against being a victim of medical malpractice.

Many patients' advocacy groups offer tips on how to protect yourself from being a victim of medical malpractice and save yourself from having to hire a Chicago medical malpractice lawyer to spearhead your medical error lawsuit. What follows below is a list of tips many patients' rights groups have offered to help reduce the risk of becoming a victim of medical negligence:

First of all, it is important to keep comprehensive medical records for yourself. Make sure that you keep these records in a safe place where you can access them quickly if needed. You will want to include a comprehensive listing of every prescription and non-prescription drug that you are taking. Also, make sure that your regular physician is well aware of every single prescription drug, non-prescription drug, vitamin, and supplement that you take.

Next, take the time to research every doctor, specialist, and practice that you have to visit. There are a number of ways that you can research a doctor or medical care facility. You can find out if the health care provider is registered with the American Medical Association by using resources on their website. You can also look at a number of independent sites that have a large amount of information about doctors compiled in their databases. This information may include their licensing data along with other helpful info.

Then, learn how to speak up about your health and voice your concerns to medical care providers. Remember that you are paying them for a service and that you should expect a reasonable level of care in return. Don't hesitate to ask questions about prescriptions or your diagnosis, especially if you do not understand the terminology that is being used by your physician.

Illinois Politicians Debate Using Mediation for Medial Malpractice

February 24, 2011

Illinois legislators are currently debating whether or not mediation would be a successful form of negotiation that could be used to curtail many medical malpractice suits. These politicians have been heatedly debating tort reform and the implementation of caps on damage awards for the state. Illinois politicians are also looking to other states that use mediation to deal with a number of medical malpractice claims in order to take a closer look at its purported advantages and its limitations.

Advocates of implementing mediation are eager to point out its potential to save patients, doctors, and hospitals a lot of time and money. According to its proponents, mediation can also eliminate a lot of the emotional turmoil that can come about during a long and drawn out medical malpractice lawsuit and give victims a chance to still seek recompense without having to relive the incident.

On the other hand, under the guidance of a Chicago medical malpractice layer, patients can assert their constitutional rights by affirming that they entitled to a trial by jury under the Sixth Amendment of the US Constitution. Opponents contend that mediation does not always net the best results for a victim of medical malpractice and that some cases simply can not be resolved through concerted mediation efforts. These cases must be presented to a jury.

Some states are now mandating that both parties in a malpractice lawsuit go through some sort of mediation before heading into the courtroom. Other states provide plaintiffs with the option of going through mediation before their case heads to court.

Ultimately, research indicates that mediation can be a cost effective way of handling medical malpractice suits. For some victims, mediation provides them with an environment that is more comfortable than a courtroom and mediation takes up a lot less time when compared to a trial.

However, according to malpractice lawyers, the patient should maintain the right to seek out a trial by jury if they desire. A closer look at some figures awarded to patients that settled their suits in mediation suggest that they receive lesser awards than what they might be awarded during a trial.

Illinois House Passes Patients' Right to Know Act

February 22, 2011

In a move to help patients protect themselves from doctors with blemished records such as a criminal conviction or a recent malpractice payout, the Illinois House has passed the Patients' Right to Know Act. This bill is aimed at providing the public with the information that they may interested in knowing before visiting a medical care provider. The new requirements put forward by this bill could potentially protect them from visiting a doctor that might be a fraud or a criminal.

This law is aimed at making sure that patients have access to imperative information that may help them to avoid a malpractice mishap when they initially decide to research a doctor. A Chicago medical malpractice lawyer urges patients to research a new doctor or surgeon as extensively as possible in order to obtain as much information about them and their practice as possible.

This bill has pitted lobbyists for the doctors up against patient' advocates throughout the state. Right now, patients can access the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation's Web site in order to learn whether or not the department has taken any disciplinary action against a physician while they were practicing. However, the proposed bill would mandate that this governmental regulatory agency post a significantly increased amount of information about individual physicians on their site.

The new bill would require that the public have access to information about a doctor being fired, any criminal convictions against them, and also information about any malpractice payments that they have paid out during the past five years. By further including this additional information on the department' website it would make it easier for people to access facts that may influence their decision to visit a physician.

One of the biggest opponents to the passage of this bill is the Illinois State Medical Society. They have helped bills similar to the Patients' Right to Know Act to be defeated in the past. This bill will now be left in the hands of the Illinois Senate to be voted upon.

Obama Voices Support for Medical Malpractice Reform

February 20, 2011

During his State of the Union address President Obama spoke in support of reforms on medical malpractice lawsuits. It is unclear whether Obama would ever support caps on damages, which he has previously opposed. Such limits would serve as a financial cap on the amount of money that can be awarded to a person stemming from a medical malpractice lawsuit and be enforced on a national level.

The passage of caps on damages would restrict the amount of money in damages a Chicago medical malpractice lawyer would be able to sue for on behalf of his or her clients. Some states such as California and Texas have already enacted laws that place a cap on the amount of money that can be awarded to a victim of medical malpractice. The states that have financial caps in place have attributed these laws with keeping down medical costs and insurance premiums.

In his speech Obama stated, "I'm willing to look at other ideas to bring down costs… including medical malpractice reform to rein in frivolous lawsuits." The President is looking for ways to reduce the cost of medical coverage since signing his health care bill into law. Many insurers have opted to raise their premiums in order to be able to keep up with the costs incurred by the recent health care reform and in anticipation of the rising costs brought on by healthcare laws that will be implemented during the course of the next couple of years.

Patients' advocates have also voiced their direct opposition to such a law. They have vehemently condemned the usage of the word frivolous when it comes to these types of lawsuits and have presented case after case demonstrating the need for some patients to receive a reward far in excess of the amount of money that their state allows.

Advocates for patients' rights and representatives from the American Association for Justice, which is an organization that represents personal injury lawyers, have denounced Obama' suggestion for a national cap calling for governmental action that would instead help to reduce the number of people that die every year as a result of negligent medical errors.

Legislative Information Found on the NCSL Site Organized By State

February 17, 2011

If you are interested in learning more information about various medical malpractice lawsuits by state there are some online resources that you can turn to. The laws pertaining to the case of a Chicago medical malpractice lawyer won't necessarily be the same laws that a lawyer in another state must learn and adhere to.

The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) maintains full documentation and compiled information taken from medical liability and medical malpractice lawsuits across the country. This agency has a website with detailed charts outlining this information organized by state. You can also view a state-by-state comparison of malpractice and liability laws broken down by state on their site.

Some of the information illustrated by this site includes damage awards or caps set by state. These are the dollar amount that someone can be awarded for a liability or malpractice lawsuit. While some states do not have a damage award cap, other states do set a dollar amount as a maximum amount of money that can be awarded in a lawsuit.

This resource will also provide you with statute of limitation laws governing over how long a person has to file a medical liability or medical malpractice lawsuit from the time in which the incident occurred. Some states have very short statues of limitations when it comes to filing a lawsuit while other states allow more time to pass before the statute of limitations has been reached.

This site will also provide you with information about joint and several liability. Currently, there are 28 jurisdictions that allow for joint and several liability. There are 17 jurisdictions that currently have several liability. Then there are a couple of jurisdictions that have modified joint or modified several liability.

The NCSL also posts information about limits on attorney fees by state. This information will inform you of just how much money your attorney can legally take from the amount of money that you were awarded as their fee. This resource also contains detailed information about patient compensation or injury funds broken down by state along with the most recent legislation that has been passed by your state regarding this matter.

Finally, you can access information regarding the laws your state has with regard to the expert witness standards that are enforced and the usage of medical or peer review panels that may be called during your case should it go to trial. There are laws that must be adhered to with the involvement of third parties in your case.

Birth Injury Medical Malpractice Settlements Set Record Highs

February 15, 2011

Medical Malpractice suits involving birth injury and subsequent brain damage have set record high settlements across the country in the past year; the settlements have allowed the families to cover the costs of the best possible care in the future for their children without any further financial burden. Although the injuries at birth are permanent, these settlements have mitigated the effect of the outstanding medical bills that will accumulate as time goes on as a result of the medical errors. A professional Chicago medical malpractice lawyer has also achieved excellent results over the years in birth injury cases.

In Leavittsburg, Ohio, a jury found in favor of the Plaintiffs for a verdict amount of $13.9 million in a birth injury malpractice case, which is the largest malpractice award in the history of Trumbull County according to Warren Tribune files. In the lawsuit, the Plaintiffs alleged that the doctor' decision to avoid a Cesarean section led to their daughter' fetus suffering from lack of oxygen, causing brain injury and, ultimately, her cerebral palsy.

Plaintiffs reported an immense sense of relief as the verdict was read; it will allow them to hire in-house caregivers in addition to the outside care necessary for the health and wellbeing of their child.

Expert witnesses at the trial testified that injuries occurred when the doctor medically induced contractions and used a vacuum during delivery, while overlooking the fact that the fetus had a low heart rate according to a previous test. These injuries could have been circumvented if the doctor had opted to perform the Cesarean section instead.

A similar verdict awarded a Plaintiff $19.2 million in Lee County Florida for a medical error involving a newborn. Plaintiffs filed charges after the premature infant was given 100 times the intended dose of nutrients, which led to cardiac arrest and complications at the time of birth. The fact that the child now suffers from cerebral palsy and blindness is attributed to this medical error.

These cases demonstrate the fact that failure to order a timely Cesarean section or administer the proper medicinal dosage both fall under the scope of medical malpractice. The only relief that these families were able to receive came about as a result of their legal actions; otherwise, they would have had to struggle to pay exorbitant medical costs throughout the lives of their children in conjunction with the emotional hardship that comes along with caring for a child with special needs.

Chicago Area Teen Dies From Possible Dental Malpractice

February 11, 2011

On February 1, 2011, a Chicago area teen underwent a root canal at Dental Dreams after he lost a filing. A week and one day later, 17 year old Christopher Schutzius died from sepsis, a toxic infection he contracted following root canal surgery, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner' Office. Chistopher' mother, Barbara Schutzius, says her son went to have a simple filing replaced. Instead, a dentist or endodontist at Dental Dreams on 1200 Western Avenue, performed root canal surgery. "All they had to do was replace a filing. Why do a root canal?" asks Christopher' mother. Nor was Chistopher given pain medication or an antibiotic which is given to prevent infection.

A root canal surgery may be performed when decay will likely damage or has already killed a tooth. During a root canal procedure, a dentist or endondontist removes the pulp from the center of the tooth and fills the pulp cavity. This can prevent a painful infection from developing and spreading to other teeth. If a tooth is infected, bacteria from the mouth can enter the blood stream, causing a potential fatal infection to other parts of the body. The risk of a deadly infection is increased following surgery on an infected tooth. Consequently, antibiotics are often prescribed before and/or after a root canal surgery to prevent serious infection.

In the case of Christopher Schutzius death, it is unclear at this point why the dental provider performed a root canal for an apparent lost filing. In addition to whether Christopher was a proper candidate for a root canal, other questions remain including what if any medications were given and what if any post-operative instructions were given regarding the signs of a potential infection. Indeed, no one can say, a this juncture, whether this Chicago area teen died from dental malpractice. What is clear is that Christopher' death is an unexpected tragedy.

Posted by Chicago Medical Malpractice Lawyer Jason M. Kroot

Gov't Study Blames Mechanical Problem For Toyota Crashes

February 9, 2011

Following a ten month investigation into Toyota crashes involving unintended acceleration, the government has determined a mechanical (and not electrical) problem is to blame. Over the past decade, there have been 89 deaths attributed to sudden and unintended acceleration in Toyota vehicles spurring two recalls, $30 million in government fines, and potential billions in personal injury lawsuits. Toyota has blamed crashes on operator error. One lawsuit against Toyota involves an off duty police officer who died, along with his family, when his vehicle sped uncontrollably before crashing and bursting into flames.

Engineers from NASA studying the problem for the government said that mechanical malfunctions caused the accidents, rather than electrical problems. Specifically, engineers determined that floor map entrapment and sticky pedals are the likely cause of unintended acceleration in Toyota vehicles. Although experiments suggest Toyota' electrical system did not cause the unintended acceleration crashes, NASA engineers acknowledged electrical failure could still cause unwanted acceleration in certain circumstances.

According to CNN, Toyota is now considering a brake override system in all its vehicles, as well as more research on the throttle. The NHTSA will push for legislation mandating brake override systems, limiting keyless ignition, and increasing the number of vehicles with event data recorder. The NHTSA Administrator, David Strickland, said their organization is committed to short-term and long-term research into how to reduce incidents of unintended acceleration and improve electrical control systems. Meanwhile, the families impacted by loved ones injured or killed in Toyota vehicles push forward with their lawsuits seeking justice.

Posted by Chicago Personal Injury Lawyer Jason M. Kroot