Articles Posted in Medical Malpractice Attorneys

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When we enter the hospital for treatment we trust that the doctors and other medical staff will provide us with the best possible care and will diagnose and treat our condition. That was not the situation in a recent case. A woman visited the hospital with complaints of a stiff neck, pain, a rash, and a low-grade fever. The attending physician tried to perform a test to ensure that the woman was not suffering from meningitis. However, the doctor tried more than 20 times to insert the test needle and as a result caused serious nerve damage. The woman filed a lawsuit in Cook County against Centegra Hospital-McHenry and the doctor who treated her.

Meningitis Testing
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Up until recently, one did not need to be a legal expert handling hospital related cases to know the difference between inpatient care and outpatient care. As traditionally understood, if you are receiving outpatient care you get to go home that day, and if you are receiving inpatient care, you have to stay in the hospital overnight. It has been a simple distinction. But hospitals are now blurring that distinction in a way that hurts patients, especially the elderly who after a life of hard work rely on Medicare to cover their medical expenses.

How Observation Status Hurts Patients

USA Today reported on this ongoing crisis earlier this month. It explains that under recent changes in the law, doctors have to certify that a patient has a serious enough condition to need at least two overnight stays for Medicare to cover an inpatient admission. However, patients are remaining in outpatient “observation” status for several nights in regular hospital rooms and not being admitted as inpatient-status patients. This becomes extremely costly to consumers because, while inpatient care under Medicare has a deductible, after that deductible is met the care is usually fully covered.

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It is no secret that litigating a medical malpractice claim can be stressful and difficult. The system is complicated, and resolving a case is not always quick. Our system of resolving medical malpractice claims is fraught with unnecessary impediments and flaws, such as frivolous lawsuits, lengthy settlement processes, and legal technicalities.

One such problem is that of doctor uncertainty. Accidents are called accidents because they are unexpected and unintended, and they can happen even in the care of well-intentioned, experienced doctors who have acted as they should. Still, they may be hit with lawsuits that gum up the courts, thus slowing the process for meritorious claims. To attack this problem, some experts propose what are called “safe harbor” laws. These are laws that protect doctors from malpractice suits in cases where they have followed accepted clinical guidelines. Essentially, doctors are provided with checklists that, if followed, will prevent their liability for malpractice claims. However, where they are not followed, the doctors will open themselves up to liability.

Despite being intended to protect doctors, a new study has found that safe harbor laws are likely more beneficial to patients than doctors. The researchers examined malpractice cases from Oregon between 2002 and 2009 to see whether they would have come out differently had Oregon had safe harbor rules in place during the period. The study found that safe harbor rules would have changed the outcome of the case in favor of the defendant physician in only 1 percent of the 266 claims it examined, so it seems that safe harbor laws do not help doctors very much.

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Prioritizing patient safety usually requires concentrated effort from entire medical caregiving systems–hospital administrators, doctors, nurses, aides, and all those involved in medical care. Many different individuals interact to provide services to patients, and ensuring that mistakes are avoided means that all those involved commit to doing everything in their power to prevent problems. As it now stands, we have a lot of work to do. Upwards of 200,000 patients die every year because of medical mistakes–many more are injured. This is a problem of large proportions.

But the fact that the problem is large does not mean that all possible solutions are complex. In fact, patient safety advocates repeatedly point out that lowering errors rates and saving lives can actually be accomplished with commitment to very simple changes. For example, even the act of washing hands consistently can prevent the spread of infection that claims many patient lives each year. Checklists can also prevent simple oversights and lapses in judgement which result in errors and take lives.

A recent story from Beckers ASC discusses one way that some facilities are trying to prioritize patient safety. The approach is known as the “Stoplight” method for its categorization of different patient safety concerns. Using the colors red, yellow, and green, the method labels each risky situation based on the ability of a team to address it.

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Many aspects of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) are set to take effect this year. Expectedly, this is causing certain groups to make dubious claims about the effect the law will have on businesses and the “tyranny” of requiring health insurance. Those who support the law are doing a decent job of reminding that the goal of the law is actually to lower costs–and there are signs that the goal will be met over the long-term.

But it is also crucial not to forget a second aspect of the law–actually improving patient safety. As med mal attorneys, this is a topic that we frequently discuss. It remains surprising that more attention is not placed on actual health outcomes, because many different policy decisions-at the federal, state, local, and institutional level–affect the quality of services that are provided.

More Transparency

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CNN reported last week on new allegations of Medicare fraud that some suggest might be one of the largest such cases ever. As blog readers know, Medicare and Medicaid fraud cases are quite common, stemming from situations where companies use illegal means to obtain more Medicare funds than allowable under the law. It is important to remember that these frauds are perpetrated against all of us, because taxpayers are the ones who foot the bill for these programs.

Dialysis Case

The main issue in this latest Medicare fraud case stems from wasted medicine. According to the story, two employees of the defendant-company (a doctor and nurse), had concerns about company policy regarding medication. Specifically, they were shocked that very expensive medicines were routinely thrown away. This is medicine that was paid for by the Medicare system and then never used.

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CBS Local recently reported on a dentist from the Smile Implant Center who is being brought before the state’s dental board for not following up with patients, along with other more serious malpractice complaints. The former Illinois practitioner had his license revoked in our state before going to California in 2002. In one instance this May, a negligence lawsuit was filed against the doctor for the death of a patient. This case provides us with a prime example for an overview of dental malpractice today.

From the more simple forms of malpractice like not following up with patients, to the most egregious (a patient dying due to a negligent act), patients should be aware of the typical types of malpractice that can occur as a result of your dental visit. If you have been injured or suffered harm in some way, there may be compensation available to you.

However, you may be unsure about what dental malpractice is, and what type of dentist behavior is applicable for a claim.

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The attorneys at our firm care are about justice. This is obviously a cliche statement, particularly coming from a group of professionals working on the side of plaintiffs in the civil justice system. However, it is important to re-iterate that principle, because so often arguments about medical malpractice attorneys, the civil law generally ,and patient’s rights advocates are based on generic claims that seem to paint a very different picture.

This is most evident when it comes to tort reform discussions. Considering it is a hot-button political isssue, most community members have heard about it and most would come up with an opinion on the issue if pressed. Unfortuantely, the arguments made in favor of it are usually very general and with little recognition of the underlying principle in which all attorneys are drilled: justice.

In the most generic arguments, tort reform pits businesses struggling to survive against greedy community members seeking to unfairly make a quick buck at the expense of job creators. In fact, some of the nation’s largest advocacy groups, like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, seem to present this image often–convincing many community members to give up their own legal rights for some vague idea of communal “benefits” that never actually come.

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Those pushing for laws that would take away rights of patients who suffer medical malpractice often paint the picture of a civil justice system run amok. If one believed all those claims, they might believe that plaintiffs who filed suit almost always won big settlements or massive verdicts every time.

Of course, this skewed portrait bears little resemblance to reality. The fact is that the civil justice system gives the benefit of the doubt to the defendants. The burden in these cases is on the patients (or their family) to prove that it was more likely than not that medical negligence occurred. This task is made even more complicated by the challenges that come with collecting enough evidence to show that mistakes were made. At the end of the day, it is easier to beat back any legal challenge (even ones with clear merit), than it is to navigate through the system all the way to trial and to earn of verdict.

Even if the case goes to trial, doctors and hospitals are often successful in convincing the jury that their is not a preponderance of evidence to prove that malpractice occurred.

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Yesterday we discussed the most common forms of damage for which you might recover following a med mal lawsuit But there are others that are less common. Please find a few other types of damages below…

Mental Anguish

Any mental suffering or emotional distress associated with an accident or injury may lead to a recovery. Mental anguish includes fright, terror, apprehension, nervousness, anxiety, worry, humiliation, mortification, feeling of lost dignity, embarrassment, grief, and shock. Mental anguish may also be available for your family members if they witnessed your injury and were mentally affected by it.