Washington DC Injury Attorney Blog

Articles Posted in Medical Malpractice

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Every summer children are left alone in hot cars. Over 600 U.S. children have died, as a result of being left alone in hot cars, since 1990. These deaths can be preventable because they happen when kids are left unattended in a hot car. At times, it’s because the driver forgot the child was in the vehicle or when children get into unlocked cars without any adult knowing it happened. It is tragic and preventable and the danger comes within minutes of being in hot closed quarters.

In order to prevent these deaths, children should never be left alone in a hot car, even if the windows are down. No matter how brief it may be for, it should not be done, for the safety of the child. Vehicles can become like greenhouses and temperatures can rise rapidly in a very short period of time. Besides the temperature, children are at a higher rise for heat-related illnesses and injury than adults because their bodies make more heat relative to their size and their abilities to cool through sweating are not as developed as an adult.

For example, on a summer day, the temperature outside can be 70 degrees, but the temperature inside a car can increase by 30 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit within an hour, and 70% of this increase occurs in the first 30 minutes, according to Christopher Haines, DO, director of pediatric emergency medicine at St. Christopher’s Hospital in Philadelphia. It is at these high temperatures that heat strokes can occur. The body can experience a heat stroke when temperatures pass 104 degrees Fahrenheit. The high temperatures overwhelm the brain’s temperature control, causing dizziness, disorientation, agitation, confusion, sluggishness, seizure, loss of consciousness and death.

It is also recommended that parents and caregivers not let children play inside unattended vehicles. One is to make sure that car’s doors and trunk are locked at all times, and also, keep the car keys out of reach of children. All these tips may help prevent children from getting accidentally locked in vehicles and save their lives.

One must do everything possible to keep children safe. It is these preventive methods that will help lower the chances of children dying from being left alone inside hot vehicles.

Therefore; if you see a child alone in a hot vehicle, call 911 immediately and do whatever possible to get the child out of the vehicle.

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What is Personal Injury Law: It is a legal term or an injury to the body, mind or emotions. It covers physical injuries, mental injuries and death that result from the negligence or intentional misconduct of another person, group of individuals, or entity. The most common types of personal injury claims are automobile traffic accidents, accidents in the workplace, slip & fall or tripping accidents, assault claims, accidents in the home and defective products. Also, included in the personal injury realm are medical and dental accidents, which can lead to medical negligence claims.

Depending on how bad the injury to the person is and the level of intent or negligence of the responsible party, the injured person may be entitled to monetary compensation from the at fault party through a settlement or a judgment.

Most personal injury attorneys represent their clients on a contingency basis or a contingency fee retainer agreement. This means that the attorney’s fee is a percentage of the plaintiff’s (injured party) eventual monetary compensation, payable to the attorney, once the case is resolved and settled, with no payment necessary if the case is unsuccessful. Also, when in this type of contract with a personal injury attorney, the attorney will pay all upfront costs and fees, which can include costs for obtaining medical records, copies, postage, faxes, correspondence, and obtaining police reports. These upfront costs and fees are reimbursed back to the attorney once the case settles and is separate then the attorney’s fee for representation.

Damages: Damages are categorized as either special and/or general. Special costs are measured and itemized to include medical expenses, loss of earnings, property damage and other out-of-pockets expenses. General costs are less measurable such as pain and suffering, loss of consortium and emotional distress. Personal injury claims include and consider both special and general damages when a claim is submitted to an at fault party.

The amount of compensation for special and general damages in a personal injury claim depends on the severity of the injury, the amount of treatment received and whether or not an injury is permanent in nature. The worse the injury is, the greater the compensation.

Time Limitations: In the United States, each state has different Statutes of Limitations – laws that determine how much time you have to file a legal claim. Different types of injuries have different statutes of limitations. In Maryland and the District of Columbia the Personal Injury Statute of Limitations to file a claim is 3 years from the date of accident and in Virginia it is 2 years from the date of accident.

Personal Injury Claim Settlements are not taxable. Therefore; any monies awarded on a personal injury claim you do not have to claim on your taxes. The official statement from the IRS states:

“If you receive a settlement for personal physical injuries or physical sickness and did not take an itemized deduction for medical expenses related to the injury or sickness in prior years, the full amount is non-taxable. Do not include the settlement proceeds in your income.”

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Legislators in the state of Maryland are trying to create a brand new fund for children and families with health problems that may have been caused by medical mistakes during child birth and labor. They propose to call this new fund the Birth Injury Fund. If and when this new fund is implemented, it would limit the ability of families to pursue medical malpractice lawsuits against medical providers, institutions, etc., and it would serve as a form of tort reform.

Eligibility for the Maryland Birth Injury program would be restricted to children born in a Maryland hospital, whose injuries fir the definition of a birth-related neurological injury. Each case would be reviewed on an individual basis by the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the Maryland Board of Physicians. Each of these organizations would review the hospitals and doctors for indications of less than standard care and practices. An administrative law judge would make the final eligibility determination and there would also be an appeals process, if needed. Once the administrative law judge approves eligibility, the child and their parents could seek compensation and care from the program in less than 90 days.

The Birth Injury Fund would give a one-time monetary award of up to $100,000.00, plus lifetime medical care, lost earnings compensation for the years 18 to 65 and no cap on the health care benefits of the injured patient/person.

The purpose of this New Birth Injury fund program is to prevent birth injuries through improved medical care and not to provide negligent doctors and hospital with immunity from the consequences of their poor medical care and practices. The new program would also result in more infants obtaining compensation and the needed lifetime medical care sooner because their parents would not need to wait to win in a medical malpractice lawsuit/trial to get access to the fund. Acceptance in the program is based on the injury and not the outcome of a medical malpractice lawsuit.

The funding for the New Birth Injury Fund would come entirely from hospitals and doctors. John Hopkins Hospital and the University of Maryland Medical System have already shown their support for the bill.

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A jury in Culpeper County Circuit Court could not decide the outcome of a medical malpractice case brought on by Carol Nettles against the orthopedic surgeon Dr. Robert Rutkowski, which resulted in a hung jury, after 11 hours of deliberations. A hung jury means that the jury members cannot, by the required voting threshold, agree upon a verdict after an extended period of deliberations and is unable to change its votes. It is sometimes also called a deadlocked jury.

Ms. Carol Nettles, a 68 year old woman filed a $1 million medical malpractice lawsuit against Dr. Rutkowski for causing severe and permanent injury to her left collar bone, shoulder and arm as a result of surgery that Dr. Rutkowski performed on Ms. Nettles’ clavicle on October 26, 2011 at the Virginia Orthopaedic and Spine Center. Out of the $1 million. Ms. Carol had originally been examined by Dr. Rutkowski to help ease some of her carpal tunnel pains at which time he recommended surgery. Dr. Rutkowski performed an operation that involved attaching a six-inch metal plate to her clavicle to help stabilize the bone. Unfortunately, the bone was so weak that Dr. Rutkowski could not attach the metal plate using traditional materials. Dr. Rutkowski instead used sutures to secure the metal plate to Ms. Nettles’ clavicle instead of using traditional screws. It is believed that by using the sutures instead of the screws her clavicle suffered a permanent injury due to the sutures rough edges sawed through her clavicle. As a result of this permanent injury Ms. Nettles is unable to move her left arm and shoulder and has been left with a disfigured left collarbone and shoulder.

Dr. Rutkowski alleged to Ms. Nettles at a post-operative appointment that her injury was a result of her weak bone, when in fact it was because of the sutures he used, instead of the screws that he was suppose to have used to properly attach the metal plate to Ms. Nettles’ clavicle. Ms. Nettles continued to complain about the pain to Dr. Rutkowski on various visits post operation and it wasn’t until December 2011 that Dr. Rutkowski referred Ms. Nettles to a shoulder surgeon at the University of Virginia Medical Center in Charlottesville, Dr. Angelo Dacus, who removed all of the hardware implanted by Dr. Rutkowski, alleviating some of the pain and discomfort that Ms. Nettles was experiencing, but still left her with a permanent injury.

Ms. Nettles therefore; made the following claims/charges against Dr. Rutkowski in the suit filed in Culpeper County Circuit Court:

– Failing to refer Ms. Nettles to a more qualified physician;
– Failing to explain the risks of the surgery;
– Failing to foresee that sutures would saw through the bone instead of stabilizing it, and
– Performing a complicated surgery that was not worth the risk to the patient’s otherwise good health.

The jury was in the end unable to determine whether or not Dr. Rutkowski was completely responsible for Ms. Nettles permanent injury. The jury consisted of six people, three men and three women. During the deliberation process the jurors presented the court and the judge with five questions, all of which could not be answered because as Judge Susan Whitlock answered “The court cannot answer these questions because the evidence is in.”

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Medical malpractice payments do not really drive up healthcare costs, says a study conducted by Johns Hopkins. The study released by Johns Hopkins in early May 2013, shows that health care costs only rise about 1% when payouts are made in substantial medical malpractice claims, in the United States.

The study was published in the Journal for Healthcare Quality and it examined payments made in what they describe as “catastrophic medical malpractice claims”. These catastrophic medical malpractice claims involve payments of more than $1 million, which involve patient deaths, birth injuries, and/or other claims for problems that result in the need for lifelong medical care as a result of a medical mistake.

The Johns Hopkins study examined data from 2004 to 2010 and found that catastrophic medical malpractice claim payments totaled $1.4 billion, and it is estimated that the United States healthcare costs are around $2.8 trillion annually, therefore medical malpractice payments don’t really have as high an effect on healthcare costs as is reported by health insurance companies, doctors and other members of the medical field.

Medical malpractice payouts are much lower than is portrayed by tort reform advocates. These people advocate that the high cost of healthcare in the United States can be blamed on medical malpractice lawsuit payouts and the fact that state legislatures have the power to arbitrarily override jury decisions and cap awards, but the Johns Hopkins study shows that it really does not have as high an effect as these advocates make it out to be.

On the contrary, the Johns Hopkins study shows that the cost of actual claims pales in comparison to the cost of defensive medicine, which is unnecessary medical procedures and tests doctors conduct on patients in order to avoid lawsuits in the first place. That cost totaled about $60 billion annually, or about 40 times the cost of actual medical malpractice payouts.

In the date used from 2004 to 2010 for this study, there were a total of 77,621 medical malpractice claims paid. 6,130 of those claims were considered “catastrophic” payouts, therefore; tort reform advocates are wrong when they make the assumption that medical malpractice claims payouts result in $100 million payouts.

The New England Medical Journal, in 2011, published a study that found that only 7.4% of physicians face the risk of medical malpractice claims each year. That means that only one out of every five claims result in a settlement or payout.

Therefore; it is fare to say that far too many tests and procedures are performed annually in the name of defensive medicine, as many physicians dear they could be sued if they don’t order them. It is not the payouts that are bankrupting the system… it’s the fear of them that are.

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The FDA has issued a warning for the antibiotic drug Zithromax, commonly known as Z-pack or Zmax, due to the fact that the drug can cause disruption to the electrical activity of the heart. An investigation has been conducted since May 2012 to determine the side effects of Zithromax and therefore a warning was issued on Tuesday, March 12, 2013.

Zithromax is an antibacterial drug known as macrolides, which have been known to cause abnormal heart rhythm problems, which can lead to fatal heart conditions. In the research conducted by the New England Journal of Medicine, it was found that patients who took Zithromax were 2.5 times more likely to die due to heart related problems on a 5 day treatment plan when compared to patients using other antibiotics.

Patients with existing medical conditions were at higher risk of heart health issues as those without pre-existing medical conditions. Patients with low blood levels of potassium and/or magnesium, those with slower than normal heart rates and those taking certain drugs used to treat abnormal heart rhythms were at higher risk of complications when using Zithromax.

Pfizer, in 2011, made a profit of over $450 million in Zithromax sales. The drug is usually prescribed to patients suffering from urinary tract infections, tonsillitis and other bacterial infections. Patients should consult with their physicians before taking this drug and doctors should inform patients of the possible heart problem drug side effects of using this drug.

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Dr. Nikita Levy, a Johns Hopkins Medical Center Gynecologist, committed suicide on Monday, February 18, 2013, after he was confronted with allegations of recording and photographing his patients during exams in his 25 year career. Dr. Levy obtained his medical license in Maryland in 1988 and started working at Johns Hopkins Hospital shortly after. Dr. Levy was contacted by Johns Hopkins on February 4th, 2013, suspended on February 5th and ultimately terminated on February 8, 2013. On February 18, 2013, Dr. Levy’s body was found at his home, in Towson, Maryland, with a plastic bag wrapped around his head and Helium being pumped into it. An apology letter to his wife was also found, near his body.

When Dr. Levy’s home was searched by police, unauthorized photographs and video recordings of patients treated at Johns Hopkins Hospital were found. Multiple computer hard drives filled with images and records, photographic equipment and hidden cameras, such as a pen camera, were found and taken as evidence.

Several lawsuits are now being filed in Maryland on behalf of former patients of Dr. Levy due to these allegations. Hundreds more are expected to be filed in the coming months. Dr. Levy had over 600 former patients whom may have been secretly photographed or recorded.

Baltimore Police have yet to contact the patients identified in the photographs and recordings and have not confirmed whether any of the material was distributed over the internet, therefore; some lawyers of these former patients have submitted a request to the Baltimore Police to release this information.

Johns Hopkins issued a statement, which in part says, “An invasion of patient privacy is intolerable. Words cannot express how deeply sorry we are for every patient whose privacy may have been violated… ” The hospital further says that Dr. Levy’s alleged behavior violates its conduct and privacy rules. The allegations were brought to light by an employee of Johns Hopkins Medical Center, who on February 4th, 2013, noticed something unusual about Dr. Levy’s examination of a patient and so a supervisor was alerted.

Baltimore Police are treating this as a criminal investigation while Johns Hopkins’ board or trustees has opened their own investigation. Hospitals, in the past, have been held liable for failing to protect patients’ privacy and for doctor’s actions, but it depends on whether there is enough evidence to prove negligence. It all depends on whether the women can be identified in the images and what they show. If patients cannot be identified, they cannot really say that they were embarrassed or humiliated.

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DePuy Hip Implant.jpg
Over 10,000 lawsuits have been filed against the company Johnson & Johnson for their distribution of the DePuy ASR hip implant, since a recall was issued in August 2010. The DePuy ASR hip implant has a metal on metal design, which means that a metal head rotates within a metal cup. This design causes metal debris, caused from the metal parts rubbing against each other, to be released into the surrounding tissue and cause medical problems. The failure occurs within five years of replacement.

When the recall was first issued, Johnson & Johnson stated that the failure rate was only about 13%, but after documents were released as part of the litigation, it was estimated that the failure rate of the DePuy ASR hip implant is as high as 37%. This means that one out of every eight DePuy ASR hip implants were failing within five years of replacement surgery.

There is currently a case going on in California against Johnson & Johnson for the marketing, manufacturing and sale of the defective DePuy ASR hip implants. It is being said that the company failed to properly warn the public, as well as healthcare professionals, about the risk of loosening and other complications that may develop shortly after hip replacement surgery.

In testimony in the current case being heard in California, a DePuy engineer testified that Johnson & Johnson only tested one angle of implantation and that the company failed to use the right engineering controls when trying to assess potential problems. The engineer further stated that the testing conducted failed to predict how much wear the hip implants would experience and how much they could loosen.

The FDA released a new guidance for metal on metal hip replacements in January of this year. Doctors were advised that metal on metal hip replacement systems should only be used if other artificial hip implants were not appropriate for the patient, and called on all manufacturers to prove that their implants are safe enough to stay on the market. Also, future metal on metal hip designs will have to undergo extensive human clinical trials before being made available for sale to the public.

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New research conducted by scientist from the University of North Carolina has found that genes play a role in the amount of pain and the severity of pain a person experiences after being involved in an automobile crash.

Two studies were conducted and data from 948 adult automobile accident victims were collected to determine that certain inherited genetic variations affect the response to pain intensity both immediately after an accident and up to six weeks after. The adult participants of these two studies provided blood samples after being treated in an emergency room and were also evaluated for extent and severity of pain at a second emergency room visit six weeks later.

The first study conducted examined the role of the neurotransmitter drug called Dopamine, which helps regulate pain. The pain levels felt immediately after an automobile crash was varied based on genetic variations associated with the use of Dopamine.

The second study evaluated the role of hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis – a hormonal system – which helps regulate the body’s response to stressful events and situations. It was found that a gene variant was linked to a 20% higher risk of moderate to severe neck pain six weeks after an automobile crash, as well as greater overall body pain.

This research will allow us to find new ways of tailoring pain treatments to each individual patient in order to alleviate pain suffered as a result of an automobile crash, both immediately after a crash and weeks after.

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Fire Deaths are down 21% compared to 2011, according to the Maryland State Fire Marshal’s Office. Only 22 people have died in fires so far this year. 28 people died during the same time last year.
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16 out of the 22 people that died so far in 2012, died in 13 separate home fires. Four out of those 16 deaths occurred in three fires where there weren’t any smoke alarms, and three of the deaths occurred in two fires where the smoke alarms weren’t operating correctly or at all.

Therefore, starting October 1, 2012, a law will be implemented in Maryland where sprinkler systems will be required in all new single family homes. Reports have shown that there have been no fire deaths, in new townhomes, where sprinkler systems were installed, since 1992.

It has been proven that having both smoke alarms and sprinkler systems in a home increase the survival rate by as much as 80%. Therefore; there must be a smoke alarm on every level of your home and in each sleeping area. The alarms should be regularly tested and their batteries should be replaced yearly.