Earlier this summer we wrote about Chicago’s expanded use of bicycle lanes and trails as well as bicycle safety and the steps to take if you are involved in a bike accident. It is wonderful to see Chicago investing in bike paths and expanding its reputation as a bike friendly city. In fact, Chicago now has more than 290 miles of designated bike lanes. However, this expansion and increased ridership has recently brought bicycle safety to the urefront of public discussion. Just last week, the Chicago Tribune published an editorial lamenting that bicycle accidents, injuries and even fatalities are on the rise.

The statistics speak for themselves. The Tribune notes that since June, four bike riders have lost their lives in collisions between bicycles and automobiles. These accidents are not confined to a single area but span points as far west as Garfield Park to the Oak Street Beach lakefront. In fact, in 2014, there were 1,663 crashes between vehicles and bicycles, which represents a 27% increase over the number of similarly reported crashes in 2005. Likewise, fatalities are also on the rise. Continue reading

Both attorneys at Leopold & Associates are avid bike riders who often take Chicago’s Lakefront Trail to get to and from the office each day. One of the best parts of Chicago is the numerous options for bikers to get around the city on beautiful trails along the lake or through some of Cook County’s forest preserves. So we were especially sad to learn of a recent death involving a rider of a Divvy bike-share bicycle in the Avondale neighborhood earlier this month. According to WGN, this death is believed to be the first bike sharing fatality in the United States.

In some ways, it is a testament to the City of Chicago’s bike-friendly approach that there have not been more tragic accidents involving the bike-sharing program. Chicago is in the midst of a massive bicycle expansion. As part of its Streets for Cycling 2020 plan, the city has begun installing more than 100 miles of separate and protected dedicated bike lanes across Chicago. These lanes come after years of planning and input from all corners of the city and aim to create not only recreational trails throughout much of the city’s waterfront and nature preserves but also lanes to be used by commuters that connect to all parts of the city. Studies show that recent installations have increased ridership by more than 60% in some areas with new dedicated bike lanes. Continue reading

The nation-wide recall of certain automobiles equipped with Takata airbags just grew by hundreds of thousands. Last week, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration added more than three hundred thousand vehicles to a recall list that is not only record breaking, but quite simply, mind-blowing. With this latest addition, the number of recalled vehicles totals over sixty million in the United States alone. As the New York Times reported on June 30, 2016, “in an urgent plea to car owners, federal safety regulators on Thursday warned that airbags in more than 300,000 older Honda and Acura vehicles were at an unacceptably high risk of exploding, and needed to be replaced immediately.” Continue reading

Over the past several months, we have voiced concern on this blog about the state of Indiana and the limits the state’s politicians placed on medical malpractice judgments. First passed in 1975, Indiana currently limits any legal settlement or verdict resulting from a healthcare provider’s errors to $1.25 million dollars. This cap is in place regardless of the severity of an injury or disability, regardless of outstanding medical bills and regardless of the cost future care. If a parent is killed due to a simple diagnostic error and leaves behind a family who relied on his or her income, the family cannot receive more than $1.25 million. If a baby suffers a brain injury during birth because a hospital failed to properly monitor the baby’s vital signs, that child is limited to receiving $1.25 million to cover future care that is often costs ten times that amount.

For these very reasons, Indiana’s medical malpractice caps have been very controversial. Families, whose lives are forever changed through no fault of their own, find themselves facing financial hardship or even in poverty because of mounting medical bills or an inability to work. Recently, we wrote about one family’s attempt to challenge the constitutionality of Indiana’s caps. Facing mounting criticism from constituents as well as court rulings in several other states (including Illinois) that found low caps unconstitutional because they are unfair to plaintiffs, Indiana’s lawmakers recently took action. As the Indianapolis Star Tribune reports, the Indiana State Senate voted unanimously to raise Indiana’s medical malpractice limits. The proposal is now before Governor Mike Pence who must decide whether to sign the bill into law. If signed, this will represent the first increase in caps on Indiana medical malpractice claims in nearly 20 years. Continue reading

Whenever you go to the hospital, every doctor, nurse, therapist or other medical professional that is involved in your care generates a large number of medical records. These records are a vital part of any medical malpractice lawsuit and often total thousands of pages. Medical records serve as a window into the minute details that are often crucial in explaining why a medical procedure may have gone wrong. For example, when a patient is hooked up to monitor, every blood pressure reading, heart fluctuation or oxygen level is recorded, often on a minute-by-minute basis. This allows for the ability to track causes and their effects and pinpoint the precise moment that something may have changed. If a patient’s heart rate unexpectedly drops, it is very important to look at the portion of the medical records surrounding the decreasing heart rate to figure out exactly what may have happened to explain the change.

With all of that said, medical records are very private documents. They often contain information and medical history that is personal and therefore should only be seen by a doctor, the patient or a representative authorized by the patient to view their records. In order to protect this patient privacy, Congress passed the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) in 1996. The HIPAA law regulates the use of protected health information by ensuring that this information remains private and is not shared with third parties. Protected health information is broadly defined as any portion of a patient’s medical record or billing information. Continue reading

Are you one of the thousands of Chicago motorists who saw a flashing white light in your review mirror as you drove through an intersection? Did you open your mail a few weeks later to find a traffic and color picture of your car going through that intersection while the light was red? Did you pay the fine? If a recent court ruling is upheld, you may be due for a refund. Continue reading

One of the largest drawbacks of our civil justice system is the amount of time it takes to litigate a case from start to finish. Here in Chicago, it is not uncommon for a medical malpractice case to take four years from the time the case is first examined to the point where the case reaches a final resolution. One of the common questions our clients ask is for an explanation of the many steps involved in litigating a complex medical malpractice case. While these phases of litigation are themselves, the subjects of volumes of books, this blog post attempts to provide a very basic overview of the major various stages of litigation involved in a complex lawsuit. Continue reading

This past summer, we wrote about a law in Indiana that prevents medical malpractice victims from receiving fair and adequate compensation when their lives are drastically altered by a doctor’s medical error. In its current form, Indiana’s Medical Malpractice Act, Ind. Code. Ann. § 34-18-14-3, places an absolute cap on compensation for losses such as medical bills, pain, suffering, the cost of future medical care, a loss of wages or any loss of a normal life at $1.25 million. This law has caused families to go bankrupt, lose their homes or live on welfare because of a medical mistake that was no fault of their own. Recently, however, a family from Evansville, Indiana has challenged the constitutionality of this law. Continue reading

One of the most pressing issues facing the city of Chicago is the current gun violence that plagues the community. It seems as though every day the local news is reporting on another shooting or other violent crime involving guns across the city. While the issue of gun control and firearm regulation has sparked heated debate across the county, the neighboring city of Milwaukee recently tried a new, untested approach at regulating firearms: using the legal system to hold gun shops who are careless in firearm sales accountable for violent crime resulting from an illegal sale. Just yesterday, Milwaukee’s efforts appeared successful. As the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports, “a jury late Tuesday found Badger Guns and its owner liable in the wounding of two Milwaukee police officers in a first-of-its-kind verdict that was being watched nationwide. Continue reading

Last week, NBC Nightly News reported on a shocking study by the National Academy of Medicine regarding medical errors in the United States. According to the report “most Americans will get a wrong or late diagnosis in their lifetimes… often with devastating effects.” Dr. John Ball, chairman of the Committee on Diagnostic Error in Medicine and an author of the study put it more bluntly by stating “everyone will experience one meaningful diagnostic error in their lifetime.”

The statistics are shocking. For example, the study analyzes that “diagnostic errors contribute to 10 percent of patient deaths” and a staggering “6 to 17 percent of adverse events in hospitals.” However, patients often never know these high and unacceptable numbers. The report explains that the lack of a uniform medical system in the United States contributes to keeping these numbers “under the radar” making it very difficult to quantify how many people are seriously injured by medical errors. The report calls this situation both an under-represented and understudied issue area in medicine. Continue reading