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July 2015 Archives

Road Rage and Auto Accidents


21810631_s-300x200.jpgPhoto Credit: 123RF Stock Photo[/caption] Nearly every driver has, at one time or another, been frustrated with traffic conditions or the actions of another driver. But there is a difference between frustration and aggressive driving or road rage. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) defines aggressive driving as "the operation of a motor vehicle in a manner that endangers or is likely to endanger persons or property," such as speeding or driving too fast for conditions, improper lane changing, tailgating and improper passing. Road rage, on the other hand, is defined by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety as "any unsafe driving maneuver performed deliberately and with ill intention or disregard for safety," and include things like cutting people off, hitting one car with another, running someone off the road, and shooting or physically assaulting other drivers or passengers. Whereas aggressive driving is typically a traffic offense, road rage is generally a criminal offense. According to an article on WebMD, young men initiate most road rage incidents, but anyone can feel rage behind the wheel because anyone can take offense at what they think another driver is doing. "Our emotions are triggered by mental assumptions," says Leon James, PhD, a professor of psychology at University of Hawaii and co-author of Road Rage and Aggressive Driving. According to James, other factors that can trigger road rage include stress and a feeling of intense territoriality that is suddenly threatened by another driver. James recommends recognizing and controlling aggressive thoughts, feelings, and actions, as well as cultivating compassion, in order to prevent or minimize road rage. AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety recommends the following strategies to prevent road rage:

Can a Passenger Be Held Liable for Encouraging Driver's Negligence?

 pWomenCellPhonePreCrash_Dollarphotoclub_30342243-300x199.jpg When a driver injures or kills another person as a result of reckless or negligence behavior, he or she can generally be held liable in a personal injury lawsuit. But what about a passenger who encourages negligence or reckless driving? Can the passenger be held liable for resulting injuries or deaths? The issue of passenger liability for encouraging reckless driving was recently taken up by a California appellate court. The Court of Appeals recently held that whether a passenger can be held liable for encouraging unsafe driving is a question of fact to be determined based on the evidence. In Navarrette v. Meyer, (June 22, 2015) Cal.App.4th (Div. One), a passenger encouraged the driver to speed over bumps in the roadway to make the vehicle airborne.  The driver accelerated, causing the car to jump. The driver then lost control and hit a parked car killing the driver of that car. The family of the decedent sued both the driver and the passenger alleging, among other things, a civil to encourage unsafe speed. The trial court agreed with the defendants that there was no cause of action against the passenger for conspiracy. The plaintiffs appealed, and the Court of Appeal reversed the trial court's decision, holding that, under the facts presented, the question of whether the passenger could be liable was an issue for the jury to decide. In its decision, the Court of Appeal adopted a broad view of those actions that could constitute willful interference with a driver's control of the vehicle for purposes of liability under Vehicle Code section 21701. Whether you are a driver or a passenger in the car, it is important to always obey the rules of the road and adopt safe driving practices. In order to minimize the risk of a car crash, drivers should:

Ralph Nader's American Museum of Tort Law


4469868_s-300x194 (1).jpgPhoto Credit: 123RF Stock Photo[/caption] Museums are popular attractions, with niche museums dedicated to all aspects of American life. There are museums for everything from mustard and baseball, to U.S. history and astronomy. And soon there will be a museum dedicated to tort law. "Tort" is the legal term used to refer to a wide range of civil wrongs that allow an injured party to pursue legal action against the wrongdoer. Tort laws vary from state to state, but they generally fall into one of the following three categories: (1) negligence; (2) intentional torts; and (3) strict liability torts. Ralph Nader, a former U.S. presidential hopeful, plans to open the American Museum of Tort Law in Connecticut, which will be dedicated to "greater citizen understanding of the civil justice system and the crucial role this muscle of justice plays in protecting the health, safety and personal freedoms of all Americans." According to a press release, the Museum's "many engrossing exhibits will tell stories that illuminate the underlying principles of the law in accurate language readily understood. It will celebrate both the 7th Amendment to our constitution, which protects the right to trial by jury, along with the many substantive protections arising out of two centuries of judicial decisions throughout our country." Last month Nader announced that the Museum will be led by Richard L. Newman as Executive Director for the Museum. Mr. Newman said that "The American Museum of Tort Law represents an historic opportunity for citizens of all walks of life to learn about tort law--the law of wrongful injury. I will work to build a museum that will serve as a broad forum to increase our understanding of the civil justice system and the various ways the law has served and can serve to protect our safety, our rights and our freedoms in a democratic society." Mr. Nader, a long time consumer advocate, has said that the law must be stable, but "must also stand strong against the sustained assault on its overall access to justice for the powerless, the wronged and the harmed. The Museum will serve to organize factual information, display and promote knowledge of tort law and its constitutional foundations, its landmark judicial decisions and its consequential societal functions." The Chicago personal injury lawyers at Steinberg, Goodman & Kalish focus on tort law and representing accident and injury victims, including those who were injured as a result of negligence. We can help you find the appropriate medical attention, conduct a factual investigation of the accident, file the necessary legal documents, and advocate on your behalf to get you a full and fair personal injury damage award. Contact our office at (312) 445-9084 to schedule a free consultation with one of our Chicago personal injury lawyers.     Steinberg Goodman & Kalish (www.sgklawyers.com) is dedicated to protecting victims and their families. We handle medical malpractice, product liability, personal injury, wrongful death, auto accidents, professional negligence, birth trauma, and railroad law matters. Contact us at (888) 325-7299 or (312) 445-9084.

How the Open Notes Program Promotes Patient Safety

pVitalsScreenSurgery_Dollarphotoclub_57054657.jpg  Optimal health care relies on accurate and effective communication, not only among doctors and medical staff, but also between the health care providers and their patients. In an effort to promote effective and efficient communication between clinicians and patients, Jan Walker, MBA, RN, and physician Tom Delbanco, MD developed the OpenNotes program, which is an emerging movement in which patients have access to the notes that health care providers, including doctors and nurses, write about them. The OpenNotes program thrives on transparency, patient-centered care, and meaningful communication in an effort to reduce medical errors and promote patient safety. Although health care providers and organizations often offer secure, electronic portals in which patients can book appointments online, communicate with their health care team via email, and obtain lab results, X-ray reports, and other test results, Walker says that these are only "data points." "Having that data is fine," Walker, a member of the research faculty of the Division of General Medicine and Primary Care at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) and Harvard Medical School in Boston, and American Nurses Association (ANA) member, has said. "But if we expect patients to pick up the ball and be more involved in their health, they need all the information, their entire health story. And that means being able to see visit notes." OpenNotes was first piloted in 2010 with primary care physicians at three, large health care organizations: BIDMC, Geisinger Health System in Pennsylvania, and the University of Washington Harborview Medical Center in greater Seattle. After a year, the OpenNotes team surveyed 105 physicians and more than 19,000 patients who participated in the program and found that 77 to 85 percent of patients reported understanding their health and medical conditions better by reading visit notes, and a similar percentage felt they were more in control of their health. Roughly three quarters reported taking better care of their health as a result of the additional information, and more than 20 percent reported sharing their notes with someone else, such as a family member or relative. Physicians generally reported stronger relationships with their patients, without a significant impact on their workflow, and agreed that opening their notes was a "good idea." After the pilot program, OpenNotes expanded to include more health care professionals within the initial health systems, as well as in other health care systems. By December 2014, almost five million U.S. patients had been provided with online access to their notes, and parallel developments in health information technology have supported this spread, including government funding to increase use of electronic medical records. Like all electronic medical records programs, however, Open Notes is not without vulnerabilities. For instance, electronic medical records - like all data and information - are only as reliable as they are complete, accurate, and understood. If electronic medical information is not accurate or complete - whether due to misinformation provided by the patient or inaccurate documentation by doctors, nurses, or medical staff - the information can lead to medical errors such as misdiagnosis or mistreatment. In the event that there is a medical error, and medical malpractice may be involved, electronic medical records can provide critical information in proving the plaintiff's case. In fact, in many cases, medical records are the key documentation to support a medical malpractice claim. If you were the victim of medical error, it is important to contact a lawyer as soon as possible in order to protect your legal rights and access any pertinent information. The Chicago medical malpractice law firm of Steinberg, Goodman & Kalish is dedicated to protecting the rights of medical malpractice victims and obtaining maximum financial recovery.  If you have been the victim of medical negligence, contact the Chicago medical malpractice lawyers at Steinberg, Goodman & Kalish to schedule a free consultation to learn more about what to do following a medical error.   Steinberg Goodman & Kalish (www.sgklawyers.com) is dedicated to protecting victims and their families. We handle medical malpractice, product liability, personal injury, wrongful death, auto accidents, professional negligence, birth trauma, and railroad law matters. Contact us at (888) 325-7299 or (312) 445-9084.

Are Hospitals Concealing Surgical Death Rate?


8943758_s-200x300 (1).jpgPhoto Credit: 123RF Stock Photo[/caption] Hospitals are supposed to be places of care and treatment, and patients trust that a hospital will do everything it can to help them heal. Unfortunately, hospitals can and do make mistakes. When this happens, the hospital and doctor can be held liable for medical malpractice. In order to prevent medical malpractice and get the best medical treatment possible, patients often seek out the doctor best equipped to handle their type of medical condition. But while there are a number of ways that information can be found on a doctor's track record - including referrals and second opinions - many times patients choose a hospital based on geography. In short, medical conditions that require a trip to the hospital often result in a patient choosing the hospital that is closest in proximity, especially in smaller communities in which there may only be one hospital in the area. When possible, however, patients often seek out information regarding a hospital to make a deliberate and informed decision. Unfortunately, when a hospital conceals information regarding pertinent patient information, the patient isn't really making an informed decision after all. For instance, CNN News recently revealed that a hospital in Florida was concealing the information regarding patient death rate, with a devastating impact on a number of patients. From 2011 to 2013, St. Mary's Medical Center performed 48 open heart surgeries on children and babies, and CNN independently determined that six infants died, and confirmed the deaths with parents of all six children. From those numbers, CNN calculated the death rate for open heart surgeries as 12.5% - more than three times the national average of 3.3% cited by the Society for Thoracic Surgeons. At least one patient told CNN that a doctor at St. Mary's had affirmatively lied to her about the mortality rate at the hospital. Hospitals sometimes refuse to provide adequate information so that patients can make information decisions. St. Mary's declined to provide requested information and CNN was only able to obtain the mortality rate information through a Freedom of Information Request. So what can patients do to decrease the chances of medical malpractice and ensure that they are getting accurate information? Patients are encouraged to get second opinions. According to the New York Times, second opinions can lead to significant changes in a patient's diagnosis or in recommendations for treating a disease, particularly with respect to radiology images and biopsy pathology slides. As the article points out, some cancers, such as lymphomas and rare cancers of the thyroid and salivary glands, are difficult to diagnose correctly and have a high rate of inconclusivity or false results. Patients can also talk to other doctors about a hospital's reputation. Talk to former patients of the doctor or hospital and inquire about their experience. Ask for specific information regarding success rate, as well as mortality rate and injury rate. If you suspect that you or a loved one was the victim of medical error, contact the Chicago medical malpractice lawyers at Steinberg, Goodman & Kalish to schedule a free consultation to discuss a possible legal claim.   Source: Secret deaths: CNN finds high surgical death rate for children at a Florida hospital     Steinberg Goodman & Kalish (www.sgklawyers.com) is dedicated to protecting victims and their families. We handle medical malpractice, product liability, personal injury, wrongful death, auto accidents, professional negligence, birth trauma, and railroad law matters. Contact us at (888) 325-7299 or (312) 445-9084.

Illinois Lawmakers Hold Hearing on Tort Reform

10337597_s-300x225 (1).jpg States around the country have passed, or are considering passing, tort reform legislation that restricts the ability of plaintiffs to bring personal injury lawsuits or limits the amount of financial recovery that can be sought in such lawsuits. Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner recently jumped on the tort reform bandwagon, seeking to set geographic limits on lawsuits to prevent forum shopping, restrict medical expense to amounts paid rather than billed, and allow defendants to pass on their liability to other parties. In response to Rauner's push for tort reform, in May, Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan called a hearing of the entire Illinois House, during which Madigan "put a human face on what those changes would mean, with lawmakers hearing testimony from nearly a dozen victims of medical malpractice and corporate negligence who told stories of botched diagnoses, mishandled pregnancies and a deadly road collision." One of the victims to testify at the hearing was Molly Akers, a patient who was incorrectly diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent an unnecessary mastectomy, and Linda Reynolds, a Missouri resident whose cancer spread throughout her body as a result of a delayed diagnosis. Reynolds won a $4.5 million judgment, but was not able to collect the full amount because of caps on damages in her state. In 2005, legislation that set limits on pain and suffering and other noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases against doctors and hospitals was passed, but that law was struck down in 2010 by the Illinois Supreme Court, which ruled that limits on damages awarded to victims of medical negligence are unconstitutional. Not only have some courts held that tort reform laws are unconstitutional, but they could potentially violate state law. For instance, some tort reform measures seek to eliminate the plaintiff's right to a jury trial - a right that is guaranteed under most state constitutions. Additionally, tort reform laws undoubtedly hurt patients and the public by failing to hold doctors, hospitals, and other medical professionals financially responsible for their injuries or deaths that they have caused.  As we have reported, the vast majority of personal injury lawsuits are not frivolous.  In fact, a study conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health analyzing more than 1,400 medical malpractice claims concluded that the majority of medical malpractice claims were meritorious and involved "injuries due to error," with 80% involving death or serious injury. The Chicago medical malpractice lawyers at Steinberg, Goodman & Kalish are dedicated to seeking maximum financial recovery for the victims of medical error and personal injury accidents. We will continue to monitor the issue of tort reform legislation and provide updates accordingly. If you or a loved one was the victim of medical error, contact the Chicago medical malpractice lawyers at Steinberg, Goodman & Kalish to schedule a free consultation to discuss a possible legal claim.   Source: Madigan sends Rauner message on tort reform     Steinberg Goodman & Kalish (www.sgklawyers.com) is dedicated to protecting victims and their families. We handle medical malpractice, product liability, personal injury, wrongful death, auto accidents, professional negligence, birth trauma, and railroad law matters. Contact us at (888) 325-7299 or (312) 445-9084.

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