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Some Facts about Medical Malpractice in the United States

Posted by on Oct 30, 2013 in Personal Injury | 1 comment

Medical malpractice is when a medical or healthcare professional breaches its duty of care to a patient which leads to injury or death. The purpose of medical malpractice litigation is to protect the rights of the patient, to keep healthcare professionals on their toes when it comes to patient care, and to hold negligent practitioners accountable for their actions.

According to the website of medical malpractice law firm Patino & Associates P.L.L.C., there are many types of medical malpractice cases. The most common basis for a medical malpractice lawsuit in 2012 was related to diagnosis (33%) followed by surgical errors (24%) and related to treatment (18%).  The states with the most number of medical malpractice cases were New York, Pennsylvania, California, New Jersey and Florida.

Many people believe that medical malpractice is a good way to make lots of money when a doctor has a bad day at the office, and indeed in 2012 the medical malpractice payout nationwide totaled $3.6 billion. A majority of this (93%) was as a result of a settlement rather than a court judgment (5%), and more than 30% was as compensation for a death. In New Jersey, a little over $206 million was paid out in medical malpractice claims.

However, medical malpractice cases are notoriously difficult to win at trial, which is usually before a jury, and takes twice as long as other personal injury cases (about 5 days versus 2 days.) This is because medical malpractice cases are often highly technical and complex. It is estimated that in general, plaintiffs win in less than one-fourth of all medical malpractice cases (23% in 2005), although the payouts in case of a win is significantly larger compared to other types of personal injury cases for the plaintiff (59% in 2005).

If you are considering suing a healthcare profession or hospital for medical malpractice, make sure that you engage the services of an experienced medical malpractice lawyer to increase the chances of success. Check on the lawyer’s reputation and track record, and don’t hesitate to ask questions.

The Trouble with Prozac

Posted by on Oct 27, 2013 in Personal Injury, Product Liability | 0 comments

Elizabeth Wurtzel, author of the autobiographical bestseller Prozac Nation, described depression as she experienced it with great clarity. A particularly revealing quote in the book explained the complexity of the disorder: “That’s the thing I want to make clear about depression: It’s got nothing at all to do with life.” People with depression don’t just snap out of it. It is not a mood, but a mental disorder that is difficult to treat without pharmaceuticals. One of the most successful, and well-known, of these treatments is the use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) drugs, most particularly Prozac.

Prozac was approved by the Food and Drug Administration as an antidepressant in 1987. It is also used to treat panic disorder, bulimia nervosa, post traumatic stress disorder, binge-eating, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and premenstrual dysphoric disorder. It has been marketed as safe for adults, children and pregnant women. Fluoxetine, the active component of Prozac, helps to keep serotonin levels high in the blood. Serotonin is believed to greatly improve a person’s mental balance.

However, studies have found a link between SSRI intake and increased violence, suicide, and birth defects in patients. This has led several class action suits to be brought against the pharmaceutical companies that manufacture them for failing to provide adequate warning of the potential harm of taking these drugs, failing to warn pregnant women about possible birth defects, or for unscrupulous marketing strategies. Eli Lilly and Company has been the subject of thousands of lawsuits for Prozac, mostly for inducing violent behavior and suicide; however, it has yet to be designated for a class action lawsuit for causing birth defects. According to the National Injury Law Center website, birth defects include autism, congenital heart problems and lung abnormalities. Eli Lilly has settled numerous suits since 2000, but more is expected to be filed, especially for birth defect cases.

Wrongful Death Laws

Posted by on Oct 25, 2013 in Personal Injury, Wrongful Death | 0 comments

The laws governing wrongful death in the US vary from state to state. In New Jersey, wrongful act litigation is embodied in the New Jersey Statutes – Title 2A Administration of Civil and Criminal Justice – 2A:31-1, known as the Survival Act and 31-4, known as the Wrongful Death Act. These sections spell out who can sue for wrongful death [PDF], who can benefit and how the award is distributed.

Under the Survival Act, it states that even if the decedent (person who died) was able to recover damages for his or her injury that eventually led to death before dying, it does not preclude the survivors of the decedent from suing for damages for the wrongful death. For example, if Joe becomes paralyzed because of the tortious act of Kelly i.e. drunk driving, Joe sues Kelly for personal injuries and wins. After two years, Joe dies from complications arising from his injuries. His wife or children can sue Kelly, this time for wrongful death. According to the website of wrongful death law firm Patino & Associates P.L.L.C., this includes funeral expenses, loss of future wages, loss of any future services of the deceased, and loss of companionship.

Under the Wrongful Death Act, the statute specifies who are entitled for any amount recovered from civil litigation. The surviving spouse is definitely entitled even if the spouse is not a dependent i.e. has an independent source of support. Children are only fully entitled if they are dependent on the decedent because of age, or physical or mental ability. If there is a spouse but no children, the spouse is entitled to the entire award.

Parents who are dependent may not be entitled to any amount unless the decedent has no spouse or children. Amount recovered in civil litigation is not part of the decedent’s estate and is not affected by the terms of the decedent’s last will and testament, if any. Live-in partners are not considered legal spouses and are not entitled to any awards.

A peculiar aspect of New Jersey law for wrongful death is that survivors may not be awarded any amount for emotional pain and suffering unless the plaintiff was present during the incident and witnessed the actual death.

Premises Liability for a Porch Collapse

Posted by on Oct 19, 2013 in Personal Injury, Premises Liability | 0 comments

Porches are high-traffic areas, and are often used during social gathering. The fact that porches are usually just extensions of the house and may not have the same load-bearing capacity as the house itself may be the reason why there have been numerous instances of a porch collapse causing serious injuries and even fatalities.

A case in Illinois where two porches collapsed under the weight of about 30 people, leaving 13 dead and the rest injured, is said to have been caused by structural weaknesses in the porches rather than neglect or lack of maintenance. There have been some questions as to whether the city inspectors’ lack of citations regarding this structural issue could be one of the reasons for the collapse. However, the courts did not give this theory any credence, and the landlord of the apartment complex bore the brunt of the premises liability awards via the building’s insurers.

Premises liability in a porch collapse has been clearly established in that case as accruing to the landlord, notwithstanding structural issues, because the landlord had control over the use of the structure. Under normal use, the porch collapse would not have happened if the social gathering had not been allowed by the landlord.

This is a case of the landlord had known, or should have known that there was a risk of harm if the porches had been subjected to loads beyond what they can safely bear. If such an event had occurred in a single-family dwelling, the owner or occupier of the house would have been liable for all injuries or deaths that may have occurred during a social gathering or similar situation. According to the website of law firm Hull & Zimmerman, P.C., porch owners have to ensure the safety of all individuals who may have occasion to be on the porch for whatever reason, or to disallow their presence on a porch which is not in good condition.

If you or someone close to you suffered injuries due to a porch collapse in New Brunswick, this may be a premises liability case. Consult with a premises liability attorney in the area for advice on what you should do to recover damages from the negligent party.

Will Corporate Tax Law Reforms Work?

Posted by on Oct 14, 2013 in Tax Law | 0 comments

Latest news regarding an overhaul of the corporate tax proposed by the Obama administration may seem difficult to turn away from. Although they are setting aside the decrease of federal corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 25 percent, the administration proposes, among others, taking out several tax benefits that are already existing on the books. America is the top country with the highest corporate tax rate among the developed countries, and many people believe that the tax code is a hot mess – reasons enough to accept change in the system.

Although it may seem beneficial on the hindsight, some are still a bit hesitant on accepting the terms. Many things can complicate such corporate tax measures, as analysis has found out that less than 10 percent of the known S and P 500 firms pay the stated rate (about 39 percent), while the combined average that companies have paid from the past year is 26 percent (while the average for the past ten years is around 33 percent). With the “lowering” of the current corporate tax rate, this may mean corporations may have to pay even more than they are paying now, possibly about 10 to 15 percent more.

Many multinational corporations have used loopholes in order to reduce or lower their liability for American taxes, and these multinational corporations are also taking advantage of the foreign tax laws which they can apply to their businesses, whether the deductions on income and claims come from property, innovation and even employing or hiring new people.

The political debate on the corporate tax reforms is in focus right now, especially since these reforms can affect the business interactions of economies around the world. Most business leaders are keeping a steady eye on the changes, or retaining a tax lawyer, in order for them to properly navigate the changes, especially since these changes will affect their business in the end.

Worst Foods for Your Teeth

Posted by on Sep 4, 2013 in Health | 0 comments

Although you’ve doubtlessly been told that sugar is bad for your teeth, you may not know why. In fact, it’s not the sugar itself that causes cavities, but acids produced by bacteria that live in your mouth. After eating or drinking a sugary food, these bacteria feed on the sugar and produce acid as a byproduct. The acid, which sits on teeth, dissolves tooth enamel and causes cavities.

So what are the worst foods for your teeth? Candy takes the cake as the worst offender. In particular, taffies and any candy containing caramel, coconut, or other sticky substances have a high potential to cause cavities. These candies stick to the roof of your mouth and inside the grooves of your teeth, allowing bacteria plenty of time to produce enamel-eating acid.

Hard candy such as lollipops and jawbreakers are also detrimental to teeth since they spend a long time in the mouth, allowing constant acid production. Sour, chewy candies are the worst of the bunch, since they contain sugar and citric acid, an unfortunate combination for dental health.

A basic rule of thumb is that any acidic and sugary foods can cause damage, especially if they remain on your teeth for a long time. To prevent cavities, eat such foods in moderation and at mealtimes, since other food can help neutralize the effects of the acid.

Fatal Consequences of Contaminated Drugs

Posted by on Aug 5, 2013 in Defective Drugs, Premises Liability, Product Liability | 0 comments

A recent outbreak of fungal meningitis in 19 states illustrates the danger of exposing hapless patients to contaminated drugs. Thirty-one people who received preservative-free methylprednisolone acetate contaminated with Exserohilum spp and Aspergillus fumigates died from fungal meningitis from 7-week-old medication which had a recommended shelf life of 24 hours. A further 424 patients presented and were treated with a regimen of antifungal medication that would have to be continued for an indeterminate number of months. The first signs of the disease were reported of on September 18, 2012 approximately a month and a half after it had been injected.

The contaminated drugs were produced by New England Compounding Center (NECC). Methylprednisolone acetate is normally used to alleviate pain and swelling associated with arthritis and other joint disorders. Instead of finding relief, most of these patients can now look forward to additional health problem brought on by the contaminated drugs. The less fortunate ones will not have to bother as they had died.

Drug manufacturers carry a heavy burden when they produce prescription drugs. As pointed out in the website of Nashville law firm Pohl & Berk, LLP, these drugs are meant to help the patient, not harm them. While NECC did not directly administer the drugs, they had a responsibility to ship contamination-free products to the health facilities they serviced. Moreover, they produced the contaminated drugs without prescription or authorization, which led to the extended period in which they were held.

Methylprednisolone acetate is an inherently unstable drug and used no preservatives. It was never meant to be produced en masse, and prior to distribution NECC should have subjected the lots to sterility tests to ensure that the medication was uncontaminated. From start to finish in this particular case, NECC acted with no consideration for the duty of care it owed to its customers, which may render them to product liability claims from the victims of this negligence.

If you or someone close to you has been a victim of contaminated drugs, you need to hold the drug manufacturer accountable for negligence. Contact a product liability lawyer and help in keeping drug manufacturers on their toes in keeping their products contaminant-free.

Types of Occupational Lung Diseases

Posted by on Aug 3, 2013 in Personal Injury, Workers' Compensation, Workplace Injury | 0 comments

Most people take the fact that they can breathe easily for granted. This is not always an option for people who are in certain occupations, although according to the website of Raleigh law firm Scudder & Hedrick, PLLC, most occupational lung diseases are preventable. Even if these are compensable, prevention is the best choice. Some of the most common occupational lung diseases are listed below.

Pneumoconiosis

Pneumoconiosis, also known as black lung disease, is a condition caused by the inhalation of coal dust. The dust fills the interstitial spaces in the lung, irritating the walls and inflaming the air sacs. One can contract the simple type called coal workers’ pneumocosis, or the more complicated one called progressive massive fibrosis (PMF). There is no treatment; the best doctors can do is to alleviate the symptoms and treat any complications that may arise.

Acute or chronic beryllium disease

Contracted by exposure to beryllium, berylliosis can occur through a variety of ways – skin contact, ingestion, or inhalation. Beryllium in its pure form and in compounds has been found to cause cancer. Chronic beryllosis is often found in fluorescent lamp workers due to their exposure to beryllium, and the first documented case was described in 1946.

Occupational Asthma

Almost 11 million workers in a variety of occupations develop asthma from constant exposure to agents known to cause it, comprising 15% of asthma cases in the US. Asthma is characterized by difficulty in breathing on occasion, chest tightness, coughing, wheezing, and general shortness of breath. It is frequently serious and can sometimes lead to death.

Bronchiolitis obliterans

Also known as obliterative bronchiolitis or constrictive bronchiolitis , this condition is a non-treatable often fatal form of obstructive lung disease where the small airway branches (the bronchioles) of the lungs are inflamed or blocked by scar tissue (fibrosis). Industries associated with bronchiolitis obliterans include:

  • Tylon-flock workers
  • Textile workers
  • Battery workers
  • Flavoring factory workers

There are many other lung diseases associated with certain occupations, but with the proper equipment, these at-risk workers should be safe. If you or someone close to you has developed an occupational lung disease, contact a workplace injury lawyer experienced in dealing with occupational lung disease to get compensation for your health problems.

How to Keep Dangerous Toys from Children

Posted by on Aug 2, 2013 in Personal Injury, Product Liability, Wrongful Death | 0 comments

It may seem incredible that despite prominent product liability cases and stringent laws regarding safety regulations for children’s toys that there are still dangerous toys on the shelf today. A recent case involving the wrongful death of a young mother, a defective inflatable slide and a popular toy store shows that some dangerous toys may not be immediately identified. It turned out later that the slide had not been tested for compliance with federal safety standards. According to New Brunswick law firm of Levinson Axelrod, P.A., manufacturers are liable for harm or injury caused by any defect in their products .

It is a no-brainer that toys with sharp edges or points, with small parts, or that involve the use of heat are potentially dangerous to children. But some dangerous toys only show their potential for harm when something bad happens, and by then the harm has been done. The key to protecting children from dangerous toys is to be always vigilant.

Here are some ways to keep dangerous toys from children:

  • Make sure that the toy is age-appropriate.
  • Check the label of electronic toys if there is a UL (Underwriters Laboratories) mark, which means it has been tested and certified as safe for use.
  • Check online if any recalls have been made for a particular toy. This usually means there already have been instances of injuries caused by the toy. You can even sign up with the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) for recall emails so that you are updated on the latest product safety news.
  • Read the labels of crayons and paints to see if they are certified non-toxic and safe for children to use. In general, crayons made from China have lead and should be avoided.
  • Keep an eye on your children. Nothing beats constant supervision in ensuring the safety of children, especially the really young ones to who even a button can be dangerous.

You need to be on a constant look-out for dangerous toys; they are everywhere. If your child suffered an injury because of a defect in a toy, you should report it to the CPSC at once. You should also check with a product liability lawyer to see if you have an actionable case.

Understanding Short-Term Disability Litigation

Posted by on Jul 31, 2013 in Short-Term Disability, Workplace Injury | 0 comments

Short-term disability is a temporary condition, but it can have long-lasting effects. According to the website of Minnesota law firm Robert Wilson & Associates, some denials for short-term disability claims are erroneous or done in bad faith. The only way to rectify this matter is through short-term disability litigation.

Short-term disability is not guaranteed in Minnesota, although work-related injuries usually qualify for at least partial coverage. You should not depend on the decision of your insurance company or government agency. Depending on the stipulations of your particular type of insurance coverage, you could still be eligible even if you are initially denied. You need to take matters into your own hands and find out as much as you can about your rights as a worker for short-term disability.

However, you must be prepared to struggle with a lot of legal jargon. This is what makes short-term disability litigation can be a complex process. Insurance companies will take any and all opportunities to deny a claim, while government agencies are just slow in dealing with a breakdown in the process because of the bureaucracy involved. The purpose of short-term disability insurance is to provide financial assistance during a temporary inability to go to work. However, if your claim gets denied, it could take months to go through short-term disability litigation. You could be back to work by then and struggling to meet the debts you incurred during your disability.

Even if you did not rack up debts, you should still strive to get what you should have received in the first place. In order to do this as fast and painless as possible, you should hire a lawyer specializing in short-term disability litigation cases to do your battle for you. Remember that finding loopholes in a denial for short-term disability claim can get complicated. An attorney used to interpreting insurance fine print and the appropriate laws to the client’s advantage is needed.