One area of law that we often get many questions about is the quality of care a loved one receives in a nursing home or rehabilitation center. The concerns appear to be valid. As the New York Times recently reported, since 2013 federal records reveal that nearly 40% of nursing homes have been cited for serious violations of patient care. The Times article notes that “common citations include failing to protect residents from avoidable accidents, neglect, mistreatment and bedsores.” Sadly, the article also concludes that the government is not doing its part to appropriately monitor and enforce safety guidelines designed to protect patients. Continue reading
Yesterday, the House of Representatives passed major legislation repealing many important reforms created by the Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as Obamacare. This new bill, was passed before many legislators had an opportunity to read the text, and before receiving any cost and coverage analysis by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (“CBO”). The bill fundamentally alters America’s health insurance system. The new law will impact approximately one-sixth of the nation’s economy and early projections from the scoring of previous bills estimate that as many as 24 million Americans could lose health insurance coverage. The law also affects other popular Obamacare regulations such as a ban on insurance companies placing lifetime caps on an insured’s care or denying of coverage for pre-existing conditions.
The attorneys at Leopold & Associates find many of these changes unconscionable. The impact on many residents in our Chicago community could literally be the difference between life and death. In addition to these concerns, we are also worried about proposals being floated within the new law that will substantially affect patient’s ability to seek justice when doctors or hospitals violate basic safety rules that seriously impact the patient’s life and the lives of their families. We are concerned about the effect on quality of care, quality of safety measures and the ability for a patient to seek fairness and justice against a medical corporation. But, as the saying goes, you don’t have to take our word for it. Recently, the highly respected New England Journal of Medicine published an editorial from doctors at Stanford University and Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital highly critical of these proposed “malpractice reforms.” Continue reading
Our practice focuses on medical errors and their impact on our client’s lives and the lives of their families. Oftentimes, these cases stem from care received at a hospital or a doctor’s office. However, medical errors can happen in all branches of medicine. Today, we examine that quite literally by looking at medicine and the pharmaceutical industry. While we often take for granted prescriptions we receive from our local pharmacy, it seems as though there has been a recent increase in pharmaceutical errors that can sometimes lead to life-threatening problems.
This morning’s New York Times focused on one shocking tragedy; the trial of Barry J. Cadden. Mr. Cadden is the owner and head pharmacist of the New England Compounding Center. The trial stems from what the Times describes as “one of the worst public health crises in the nation’s history.” In 2012, a number of medications manufactured by the New England Compounding Center became tainted leading to an outbreak of meningitis and other serious infections. The outbreak affected more than 700 people and sadly killed 64 people. Hundreds of other patients now live with constant, terminal pain that affects many aspects of their everyday life. Continue reading
On Friday, January 20, 2017, Donald J. Trump will become the 45th President of the United States. Once inaugurated, he will join with the 115th Congress, sworn in earlier this month, to create the first, entirely Republican government in Washington DC in more than ten years. As this new government takes shape, it is expected to enact many new policies, laws and regulations that will have a lasting impact on the judicial system here in Chicago. This blog post attempts to look at three key areas where Republicans may hope to reshape policy in the coming year. Continue reading
Earlier this year, we documented the successful effort to raise the limit capping compensation, reimbursement for medical bills and pain and suffering in Indiana for medical malpractice lawsuits. As a plaintiff’s litigation firm, we make our concern for these limits no secret as they impact the ability for people, injured through no fault of their own, to receive fair and adequate compensation for their injury. We have seen far too many tragic cases where victims in states with such caps face financial ruin because they are unable to be compensated for astronomical medical bills or worse, are unable to pay for the basic and necessary care that their injuries now require. The battle over these caps, and their constitutionality in our justice system, is playing out in states across the country. Today we look at the most recent battle that is taking place in the state of Florida, which has come to a head with a recent ruling this past month. 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
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
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