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By Lorraine Swanson, Patch Staff

A South Holland mom is expected to file a lawsuit Tuesday against a home health care provider over claims that her disabled daughter was abused by an employee with a criminal record while attending a Chicago Heights special needs school.

The plaintiff, Veniscia Humphrey, is suing Pediatric Services of America, Inc., for physical abuse her young daughter suffered at the hands of one of the agency’s nurses, who had an extensive criminal background.

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Takata airbag injury, Chicago auto defect lawyersDefective Takata airbags, which caused one of the biggest automotive recalls in history, were linked to 10 deaths and more than 100 injuries. Exploding on impact, the defective airbags sent metal shrapnel flying throughout the car and at its occupants. But, until now, no one really understood why. Scientists say they now have the answer.

A Multi-Faceted Problem

According to NPR, ten automobile manufacturing companies banded together and hired a team of rocket scientists so they could better understand what exactly had caused the airbag problems. What they found was not just one contributing factor, but several. Exposure to humidity, problems with both the manufacturing and design, and the use of a volatile chemical known as ammonium nitrate are all to blame, the scientists say.

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avoidable medical errors, Chicago medical malpractice lawyersWhen people get sick, they visit their doctor to get better. When they are critically ill, they go to a hospital for treatment. But are doctors actually doing more harm than good? Evidence from the prestigious Journal of Patient Safety would certainly suggest as much. Published nearly two decades after the Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) concerning report, To Err is Human, this new study indicates that people are not just dying by the very hands that are supposed to heal them; they are dying in significantly higher numbers than previously thought.

Preventable Deaths Now Third Leading Cause of Death

Using medical studies that were published between 2008 and 2011, researchers with Patient Safety America examined the occurrence of five commonly made medical mistakes: diagnostic errors, errors of commission, errors of context, errors of omission, and errors of communication. Overall, these mistakes caused as many as 440,000 deaths each and every year. That makes it the third leading cause of death in America, placing it beneath only heart disease and cancer.

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public duty rule, Chicago personal injury attorneysThe “public duty rule” has provided many government officials with protection from lawsuits when they fail to provide adequate government services.   A recent Illinois Supreme Court decision has abolished this rule, effectively restoring the public’s right to seek victim compensation when government employees and officials engage in reckless, willful and wanton behavior.

The Illinois Supreme Court Case

The recent Illinois Supreme Court ruling involved the death of a Will County woman. Suffering from difficulty breathing, the woman had called 911 and spoke to an emergency dispatcher, giving her name and address and requesting an ambulance.   When emergency medical technicians arrived, they found the house locked with no response, and decided to leave.

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drug shortages, Chicago medical malpractice attorneyIf two people you knew were in a life or death situation and you could only save one, who would you choose? This is the decision that doctors, surgeons, and anesthesiologists are making each and every day, but it is not for the reason you might think. Medicine shortages – everything from antibiotics to cancer drugs – are creating questionable practices and muddy ethical reasoning in the healthcare industry. So much so that ethicists and patient advocate groups have started to crop up with the hope of making the decision process “easier” and preventing malpractice cases.

Where Have All the Drugs Gone?

According to the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, more than 150 drugs and therapeutics are in short demand. Some are allegedly due to problems in manufacturing. Others are said to be because of federal safety crackdowns on drug makers that have made it more difficult to meet public demand. And still others are said to be due to the increasing cost of the drugs themselves. Whatever the case or reason, it is creating a serious safety problem for patients.

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dangerous drugs, FDA approval, Chicago liability attorneysOriginally developed to protect consumers, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is responsible for monitoring and investigating the safety, efficacy, and security of drugs and medical equipment used and prescribed in the United States. But patient advocates, federal auditors, and health-policy experts have been voicing concerns over the FDA’s monitoring and surveillance systems since the 1990s. Now, with the number of defective drug and medical equipment injuries and deaths mounting, lawmakers are looking for a way to step in and take over.

FDA’s Concerning Failures Exposed

Over the years, the FDA has been cited for a number of failures in the way they approve and oversee the drugs and equipment they are responsible for monitoring. Part of the problem relates to outdated or inaccurate data. The system’s self-reporting reliance is another. All lead to one very concerning conclusion: their shortcomings are causing injuries and deaths to innocent people.

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malpractice cases, Chicago wrongful death attorneysEffective communication is an integral and essential part of our everyday lives, but there are few professions in which it can make the difference between life and death; in the medical field, it can and does often lead to the latter. In fact, a recent study on a selection of medical malpractice cases found that communication failures had contributed to nearly 2,000 wrongful deaths over the course of five years. Sadly, this is not a new or uncommon issue.

Communication Failure Not a New Issue

It has been more than 15 years since the Institute of Medicine released the report, To Err is Human, in which researchers found that nearly 100,000 patients die each year from medical mistakes. And more than two decades have passed since Boston Globe health reporter Betsy Lehman died from a chemotherapy overdose because of a communication error.

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truck driver fatigue, Chicago truck accident lawyersDriver fatigue is a universal problem that contributes to hundreds of thousands of motor vehicle accidents per year. In fact, according to a recent AAA survey, nearly half of all drivers admitted to falling asleep or nodding off while driving at least once in their lifetime. And an investigation by the NTSB of identified driver fatigue as a probable cause or contributing factor in nearly 20 percent of 182 major commercial-driver accidents; the implications in these sorts of accidents can be downright devastating for all involved.

A Sleep-Deprived Country

According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, as many as one in five adults fail to get enough sleep. Some do so with sleep disorders, like insomnia. Others suffer sleep deprivation because of work hours, medical issues, or personal obligations that may restrict or diminish the amount or quality of sleep. Still others work hours that are constantly changing, making it nearly impossible to develop a healthy sleep schedule. Whatever the reason, a large percentage of Americans are working through the fog of excessive daytime sleepiness.

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superbug, medical scopes, Chicago medical malpractice attorneyOver the past few years, medical scopes have been linked to outbreaks of deadly, antibiotic-resistant "superbug" infections. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has already recalled a disinfecting machine, but now one of the three brands of medical scopes used to drain fluids from the pancreatic and bile ducts is being recalled by the manufacturer, Olympus Corporation.

Disinfection and Sterilization Troubles Suspected in Scope Issues

According to a recent report, the bug and spread of infection may be due to the troubles experienced while attempting to sterilize and disinfect the Olympus medical scopes. It is possible that the issues with certain sterilizing machines may play a factor, but the scopes also play a factor, the FDA says. In fact, the organization alleges that they had already provided a warning to the manufacturers regarding their inactivity and delay in finding a solution to the problem.

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bad drug interactions, Chicago negligence lawyerA bad drug interaction or an adverse reaction caused when one drug interacts or interferes with another drug, is an extremely common issue, particularly among those with multiple health issues. As such, the elderly population is often at the highest level of risk. However, anyone taking more than one medication – even over-the-counter drugs – can be at risk for a bad drug interaction.

So who is responsible if one happens? Is it the doctor that prescribed the medication? Is it the pharmacist that filled it? Or both? The answer is a little obscure, particularly when examining former cases involving physician liability in bad drug interaction. However, as a general rule, they may be implicated for a variety of reasons that may or may not be directly related to whether or not they have a duty to warn.

Courts Divided on Pharmacist’s Duty to Warn

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cough syrup recall, Chicago product liability attorneyA cough syrup distributed by Master Herbs, Inc. is being recalled because it contains undisclosed morphine. Made in China, the licorice cough syrup was distributed in 100 ml bottles at Chinese grocery stores in California, New Jersey, Hawaii, Illinois, Ohio, and Nevada. Although to date, no one has reported being harmed by the medication, the implications are highly concerning, particularly for those that may have an oversensitivity to morphine.

Side Effects of Morphine

Morphine, which is a powerful narcotic, can cause a battery of adverse effects, ranging from stomach cramps to respiratory problems and death. Those that suffer from oversensitivity are especially prone to severe and potentially fatal side effects. Although, typically, symptoms subside, those that are suffering from respiratory distress, severe allergic reaction, or other potentially fatal symptoms should seek immediate medical attention.

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excessive surgeries, Chicago medical malpractice attorneysAccording to recent studies, at least 91 percent of all physicians practice defensive medicine. Described as the process of ordering tests or procedures that exceed necessity to diagnose or treat to prevent a lawsuit, this new “face” of medicine can be found across all practices and specialties. But is this potentially driving factor in rising health costs really about preventing lawsuits? Or is it a method of fraud to drive up profits?

The Danger of Unnecessary Procedures

Whether it is a simple incision or a complete surgery, the performance of an unnecessary procedure puts patients at risk. Infection, complications, and the general presence of pain are all matters that may arise; in some cases, those problems can become deadly. For example, an unnecessary surgery can put the patient at risk for an anesthesia reaction, heart failure, hemorrhaging, and post-operative infection. So why do doctors do it?

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Chrysler defect, Chicago car accident lawyersTime and time again, corporations selling deadly or defective products manage to conceal their wrongdoings from the public eye. Even as more injuries, deaths, lawsuits, and settlements pile up, indiscretions are sealed and hidden through sealed court documents. It is both disturbing and disgusting. And it happens much more frequently than most people realize.

Remington, Chrysler, Trinity, AMG, and More

A power system defect that caused Chrysler vehicles to stop without warning while driving them is just one of the many examples of companies that have been allowed to seal lawsuit documents, continue to sell their products, and not issue a recall. As was the motion filed by plaintiffs in lawsuits against Chrysler—a plea with the courts to force them into notifying their customers of the danger. Yet it, along with the majority of evidence, was originally sealed. Just like in so many other cases:

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punitive damages, Chicago personal injury attorneysPunitive damages, which are awarded to plaintiffs when a defendant has acted willfully, maliciously, or fraudulently negligent, are intended to deter similar future acts. Tort reformers and the media often attack this form of compensation, however, claiming it is frivolously and excessively awarded without cause. Yet an investigation of the evidence suggests quite the contrary.

Punitive Damages Rarely Awarded

Although tort reform supporters, lawmakers, and corporations would like the public to believe that punitive damages are increasing in both award amount and frequency, the very opposite is true. In fact, when examining the data from various sources, including the U.S. Department of Justice, it would appear that punitive damages have actually decreased in frequency and inflation-adjustment amount. Moreover, the actual percentage of cases for which punitive damages are awarded has, for the most part, remained stable.

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tort reform report, common claims, Chicago medical malpractice attorneyWhen it comes to the problems in our healthcare system today—be it the increase in medical malpractice liability coverage costs for physicians, or the deterioration of the system itself—the blame often falls to “runaway juries,” outrageous award amounts for non-economic damages, and an overall increase in both the frequency and size of medical malpractice claim awards. To examine these theories, Illinois State Bar Association (ISBA) commissioned a report in 2005. The information uncovered might surprise you.

Frequency of Civil Litigation Case Filings Substantially Lower

One of the main justifications in the argument for tort reform, as used by its supporters, is that malpractice lawsuits against physicians are more frequent today than they were several years ago. And, as a result, physicians are facing substantial increases in their liability insurance premiums. While the latter certainly proves to be true, the ISBA report indicates that Illinois doctors are actually being sued less.

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tort reform supporters, Chicago personal injury lawyersIn Illinois, and all across the country, people are being told that our justice system is broken and that patients are frivolously suing (and winning against) innocent doctors, nurses, and hospitals. But, like many of the stories spun by tort reformers, such claims are untrue. If anything, evidence shows that not only is our system not “broken,” only a small percentage of injured patients ever actually pursue a medical malpractice claim.

Statistics Hidden and Ignored by Tort Reform Supporters

According to recent information, anywhere from 210,000 and 440,000 patients walk into a hospital in search of care and never walk out. Determined by the Journal of Patient Safety, this information places medical errors third on the list of leading causes of death in America, just behind heart disease and cancer. Even more suffer a nonfatal injury that somehow alters their way of life—as many as 600,000 annually, according to Harvard researchers. And yet there are only about 85,000 medical malpractice lawsuits filed each year.

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tort-reformFiction can provide hours of entertainment, give us a momentary escape from reality, and encourage us to tap into our creative, youthful self. But there is a time and a place for such fanciful notions, and it is not in the legal arena. So why do tort reform supporters use extravagant, exaggerated, and sometimes even completely fabricated stories when discussing the legal system today? Bottom line: because those stories support their message.

Behind the Curtain of Tort Reform

Tort reform is backed by some pretty powerful players, such as insurance companies, manufacturers of dangerous or defective products or chemicals, and other major corporations, who use their funds to sway people in their direction. Driven by the desire to protect their assets and increase their bottom line, they want to make it nearly impossible for anyone they kill or injure along the way to receive compensation. To achieve those goals, they literally purchase the help of the keynote speakers—government officials, defense attorneys, the media, and other influencers.

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worker protection, Chicago workplace injury lawyersThe difficulty workers experience after suffering an injury on the job is not a new concept; tightening of the proverbial belt has only made matters worse. But the emersion of a middle man—one that is unseen and largely unknown by both the corporations and injured workers they serve—has complicated the system even further. Some even say that the work of these new players are actually creating further burdens for the injured.

The Struggle of Injured Workers

In the state of Pennsylvania, a widow is still fighting to receive compensation for medical bills and funeral costs after chemical exposure on the job destroyed her husband’s brain and health. It has been three years since a judge ruled that the job was to blame. Prior to that, she spent more than four years just compiling enough evidence to prove it. She’s drained their savings, tapped into college funds and an inheritance, and pulled lines of credit just to manage.

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For most parents, the birth of a new child is a joyous event, one full of promise and a long and happy future. Sadly, there are far too many other parents that go through a very different sort of experience. They are thrust into tragedy, or onto a path that they could never have anticipated or planned for. Sometimes, these experiences are the result of an unpreventable tragedy; other times, they are the result of a birth injury caused by a negligent healthcare provider. In both instances, the future can become one that appears bleak, blurry, or even frightening.

For Ted and Jennifer Hill, the future became a place of uncertainty after the delivery of their son, Ryan. Born with permanent brain damage, Ryan would need lifelong care. His parents faced concerns over how his needs would be met after they were no longer living. But even more concerning was the feeling that Ryan’s injuries could have somehow been prevented. In 2006, they pursued this possibility by filing a lawsuit on behalf of Ryan against the hospital. In late 2008, they were referred by another attorney to Hurley, McKenna & Mertz, P.C.

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residential treatment facilities, Chicago medical malpractice lawyersResidential programs are entrusted with the care and treatment of troubled or disabled youths and adults, but some of them are hiding a dirty little secret. Riddled with claims of abuse and neglect of the very people they are supposed to be helping, they are responsible for more than 100 deaths per year. Worse yet, they are buying their way out of those claims, sweeping the bad publicity under the rug, and allowed to continue operating, despite their outright mistreatment of residents.

Abuse, Neglect, and Death

Tens of thousands of teens and disabled adults are sent to residential treatment programs each year. Though considered a last resort for exhausted and overwhelmed families or schools, facilities like these have allegedly been found responsible for at least 145 deaths over the last three decades. ProPublica recently investigated these deaths to determine what, if any, responsibility might be designated to such facilities. Their results were highly disturbing.

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