June 2011 Archives

Missouri Medical Malpractice Injuries Declining, but Still Too Prevalent

Medical malpractice injuries are one of the most disturbing areas of a Missouri Personal Injury law practice. The victim of medical malpractice is actually harmed by the very entities entrusted with healing and helping him. Fortunately, Missouri has established legal statutes allowing medical malpractice victims to file a lawsuit for recovery of damages against any health services provider that causes injury.

449234_hospital_room.jpgMedical malpractice injuries include those caused by:

• Diagnostic Error
• Improper treatment/surgical error
• Lack of treatment
• Delay in treatment

Missouri Medical Malpractice Laws

Missouri law provides a short statute of limitations on filing medical malpractice claims. To clarify--medical malpractice lawsuits must be filed within a certain time of the act causing the malpractice injury, or within a certain time period of the discovery of the malpractice injury. If the malpractice resulted in wrongful death, the deceased's estate has a different statute of limitations from the date of death to file a malpractice claim. If the malpractice case involves injury to a minor, the time to file the claim may also be different. To find out what time limitations may apply in a case, talk with a Missouri personal injury lawyer.

Missouri negligence statutes governing medical malpractice lawsuits have specific rules limit unique to this type of action. Many of these rules can be argued to favor the defense and medical provider. For example:

• The court may need to consider a request by either party for periodic damage payments in awards over $100,000.
• The plaintiff must file an affidavit of expert consultation in the first 90 days after filing the malpractice suit.
• If the defendant is more than 51% at fault, their liability may be treated differently by the court.
• Physicians charged with negligence while offering their services at a free health care clinic cannot be charged with malpractice--unless the negligence is willful.
• A physician's expressions of sympathy cannot be considered admission of guilt or entered into court proceedings.

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New Report Highlights Risks of Pedestrian Accidents in Springfield Missouri and Elsewhere

A new edition of the pedestrian safety report, provided by Transportation For America, has been released. This new report takes a look at the 47,000 pedestrian fatalities that occurred between 2000 and 2009. It also looks at the 688,000 pedestrian injuries. All of these incidents were a result of motor-vehicle-related accidents on our roadways. The data will be used by Dangerous by Design 2011 to examine these occurrences and search for new ways to reduce the risks of these pedestrian accidents in Missouri and elsewhere throughout the United States.
Our Missouri personal injury attorneys understand that pedestrian accidents have become an epidemic that is all too accepted in our area. There are a number of ways that we can help decrease the risks of these accidents. Drivers are asked to practice extreme caution behind the wheel to help protect our on-foot and two-wheeled road travelers.

The new report comes equipped with national data and city-specific data through a number of fact sheets. The data is also available through an interactive pedestrian map that illustrates the specific whereabouts of the serious, and fatal, accidents.

According to the report, there were more than 800 pedestrians killed in Missouri during the studied years. These fatalities cost the state nearly $3.5 billion. Our state ranks 17th out of the 50 states on the Pedestrian Danger Index (PDI).

A majority of these pedestrian accidents happen along "arterial" roads. These are roads that have been constructed to accommodate speedy traffic and provide little to no safety measures for pedestrians. These are roads for which federal funding is provided for construction. Even with the alarmingly high number of pedestrian fatalities along these roads, Congress is still considering eliminating their funds to make them safer for walkers, joggers and bicyclists.

This fund only makes up less than 1.5 percent of the current federal transportation outlay. Highway-only lobbyists also continue to argue that safety is a feature that must be provided by local governments. Still, they're forgetting that roughly 70 percent of these accidents occur on federal-aid roads. These are the roads that are eligible to receive federal funding and must follow federal guidelines for their design.

The most dangerous counties in Missouri for fatal pedestrian accidents:

-Jackson, 136

-St. Louis, 105

-Greene, 33

-Jefferson, 28

Until federal programs focus on pedestrian safety, these numbers will continue to be alarmingly high. Federal programs are currently still encouraging that state departments of transportation focus on speedy flowing traffic over the safety of pedestrians in neighborhoods and shopping districts.

If you think our tax dollars should be used to increase the safety of pedestrians, you are urged to contact Congress and voice your opinion. Now is no time to cut funds for pedestrian safety.

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Missouri Personal Injury Lawyers are Watching as the Second Levaquin Trial Begins

LM add photo and links

Johnson & Johnson's Levaquin is the subject of a trial that began this week in Minneapolis. An 84-year-old plaintiff alleges that his Achilles tendon ruptured after taking the drug to treat pneumonia. The suit claims that J&J knew Levaquin boosted the risk of tendon damage in elderly patients and that the company failed to properly warn patients or doctors about that risk. Missouri personal injury attorneys in Joplin, Springfield, Cape Girardeau, Columbia and throughout the state are watching to see how the jury responds to the evidence.

1323011_pills.jpgThere are more than 2,500 pending cases alleging tendon damage related to Levaquin, and this claim is the second to go to trial. In the first, a jury awarded $1.8 million to another elderly man who ruptured both Achilles tendons after having been prescribed Levaquin.
Lawsuits filed in federal district courts throughout the United States involving Levaquin have been organized as a multidistrict litigation in the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota.

In 2008, the Food and Drug Administration forced Johnson & Johnson to strengthen its warning about potential tendon damage related to Levaquin, requiring a "black box" or enhanced warning as to the risk of tendon ruptures. The risk was found to be higher in patients over 60, patients taking steroids, or recipients of kidney, heart or lung transplants. The plaintiff in the most recent suit to go to trial alleges the company knew about the risks and should have upgraded that warning earlier than required by the FDA.

Johnson & Johnson's counterargument claims that the company and its subsidiary, Ortho McNeil, also named in the suit, did not fail to warn about Levaquin's potential dangers. Levaquin's label "has included warnings about tendonitis and tendon ruptures" since first approved, a company spokesman claimed in an email to Bloomberg News Service. "Additionally," the spokesman wrote, "the evidence will show that the plaintiff's prescribing physician was aware of the risks of Levaquin, including the risk of tendon rupture in elderly patients."

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Lawmakers Try Cashing in on DWI Offenders in Missouri to Fund Road Construction Projects

Lawmakers are looking to toughen some laws on repeat drunk driving offenders in Missouri so that more federal money can be used to make road improvements. Sen. Bill Stouffer, a Napton Republican, says that these types of changes would allow the state to redirect more than $15 million in federal funds from highway safety programs to road construction.

The bill would also limit the privileges on repeat offenders so that they would no longer be able to drive to medical appointments as they would only be allowed to drive to school, work, alcohol or drug treatments or to their ignition interlock provider, according to News-Leader.
Our Missouri personal injury attorneys know drunk drivers are too often responsible for a hit-and-run accident or an uninsured motorist accident. We are also aware of the recent issues revolving around drunk driving sentences and the initiative from the public to create stricter and steeper sentences.

Those who have been classified as a repeat offender would also be required to complete community service and court-ordered treatment programs if they were looking to avoid jail time.

A House committee heard testimony on the bill earlier this month. The Senate passed it last month.

Regardless of sentence times and other possible repercussions, all drivers are encouraged not to drink and get behind the wheel of a motor vehicle. You are urged to find a sober driver, call a cab, take the bus, stay at a friends house or get a hotel.

Motorists are also asked to be on the lookout for drunk drivers -- don't let friends drive drunk and don't hesitate to report a drunk driver to authorities. Drunk driving accidents in Missouri claimed nearly 400 lives last year.

Progressive Insurance offers you these safety tips to help stop your friends or family members from jumping behind the wheel of a motor vehicle after having consumed any amount of alcohol:

-If the intoxicated person is a close friend of yours, approach them with a calm, soft approach. Suggest they've had too much to drink and they should let someone else drive or just to take a cab. Be light about the situation, express true concern and let them know that you're really doing them a favor.

-If the intoxicated person is somebody you don't really know that well, talk with their friends and make sure they make an attempt to persuade them to hand over the keys. They're more likely to listen to their close friends

-If the intoxicated person is a good friend, spouse or significant other, tell them that you will not be riding with them. Tell them that you will happily either call someone else for a ride, take a cab or walk. Fine that person's keys while they're preoccupied, take them away and hide them. Hopefully, they will just think they've lost their keys and will be forced to find another way home.

-It is important to remember to avoid embarrassing the person or being confrontational with them. This will make them appear vulnerable to alcohol and its effects and they are likely to grow upset or angry with the situation.

Nearly 11,000 people lost their lives in accidents that involved an alcohol-impaired driver in the United States in 2009, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Alcohol-related driving deaths make up more than 30 percent of all the motor-vehicle traffic deaths in the United States. During 2009, drivers aged 21- to 24-years-old had the highest percentage of deadly accidents with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or above.

INearly 400 people were killed in 2009 by traffic accidents involving an intoxicated driver in Missouri alone in 2009.

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Proposed Anti-Texting While Driving Bill Fails in the Senate--Missouri Personal Injury Attorneys Ask Why?

578131_place_the_call.jpgMissouri Personal Injury Attorneys recently received information from the Missouri State Highway Patrol regarding the use of cell phones while driving and auto accidents. According to the release, in 2009 cell phone usage contributed to more than 1,780 traffic accidents in Missouri alone. That is a pretty high number. Cell phone related car crashes were the cause of 20 Missouri fatalities and 779 injuries in 2010 as well.

Here is a quote from Colonel Ron Repogle of the Highwway Patrol: "Inattention is a leading cause of traffic crashes. If you're focused on sending a text message, then you aren't paying attention to your driving. Cell phone usage, particularly texting while driving, can lead to tragic consequences."

Despite this, the Missouri Car Crash Lawyers at Aaron Sachs and Associates were surprised to hear that the proposed legislation to make texting while driving illegal failed to pass in the Missouri Senate this month. (It had previously passed in the House.) In 2009, the Missouri Senate passed Senate Bill 701, which did ban texting while driving but only for motorists 21 years old and younger. This made Missouri one of the 38 states nationwide that have passed anti-texting while driving laws.

One of the things discussed in the Senate was difficulty with enforcement of an anti-texting law. The law currently on the books has various enforcement issues. Capt. Hull explains, "The general use of a cell phone is not prohibited at any age in Missouri, so you have to be able to differentiate between someone just using their phone and someone who's texting," Hull said. "Then of course, you have to decide if the person looks 21 or younger."

If you have ever sent a text while driving, it is obvious to see how it is equally distracting for everyone, regardless of age. Removing the age limitations and having the law apply to everyone would be a huge help to law enforcement officers, because they would be able to spot violations immediately, without having to determine the driver's age.

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Driver Faces Only Four Year Sentence for Fatal Drunk Driving Motorcycle Accident in Missouri

Those hit by a drunk driver in Missouri are not seeing the appropriate justice. Drunk drivers are being released from prison all too quickly, says Mike Boland, executive director of the Gateway Chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
The organization has been trying to raise awareness in the public about a recent issue involving an accident that took the life of an 18-year-old female who was involved in an alcohol-related motorcycle accident back in 1995, according to STL Today. The driver, a 21-year-old Arizona State University student, was tried for the accident and pleaded guilty to driving while intoxicated in St. Louis County.

Our Missouri injury attorneys understand that drunk drivers pose serious threats to other motorists. Being involved in a drunk driving accident in Jolpin, the Bootheel, Colombia, Springfield or elsewhere in Missouri can result in serious or fatal injuries. You are advised to contact a lawyer immediately if you've been involved in an accident with an intoxicated driver.

The at-fault driver in this case pleaded guilty to charges of manslaughter and served five years in prison. Some members of Gateway Chapter of MADD contacted and wrote letters to the court asking that the driver serve more time behind bars. What angers the members of M.A.D.D. even more is that after serving his time, the motorcyclist racked up two more DWIs, one in 2008 and one in 2009.

The law for drunk driving offenses in Missouri is a graduated one, as charges can range within several different levels of various misdemeanors and felonies. The severity of each charge is determined by the number of previous offenses.

Prosecutors in St. Louis County recently charged him as a persistent offender, which is a felony charge that comes with a maximum sentence of four years in prison. When the driver was sentenced again in January, he received three years and six months behind bars.

Shortly after the drunk driver was sentenced, MADD discovered that he had a hearing in May that could possibly set a date for his release. That hearing doesn't guarantee he will be released early, but the board could decide to revisit that proposal in a few months. A decision has not yet been made.

The attorney for this alleged offender is seeking treatment for the driver's drinking, but ultimately the length of his sentence will be determined by the Missouri Department of Probation and Parole.

The Department of Probation and Parole reports that in 2010 drivers convicted of a DWI served an average of 40 percent of their given sentence. Even worse, some offenders convicted of a felony, depending on the circumstances, serve just 15 percent of their sentence, which in this particular case would keep him behind bars for a week shy of seven months.

"People wonder why we're called MADD, and it's simple," says Boland. "If you're looking for justice in drunk driving, it's very, very hard to find."

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, nearly 11,000 people were killed in accidents that involved an alcohol-impaired driver in the United States in 2009. Alcohol-related driving fatalities make up more than 30 percent of all the motor-vehicle traffic fatalities in the entire country. In the same year, drivers between the ages of 21 and 24 had the highest percentage of fatal accidents with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or above.

In Missouri, nearly 400 people were killed in 2009 by traffic accidents involving an intoxicated driver.

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Missouri Car Accident Numbers See Slight Increase in Last Quarters of 2010

Fewer car accidents were reported last year than at anytime since 1940, according to U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. This decrease occurred despite a significant increase in the number of total miles traveled by American motorists this past year.

"Last year's drop in traffic fatalities is welcome news and it proves that we can make a difference," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. "Still, too many of our friends and neighbors are killed in preventable roadway tragedies every day. We will continue doing everything possible to make cars safer, increase seat belt use, put a stop to drunk driving and distracted driving and encourage drivers to put safety first."
Our Missouri car accident lawyers understand the confusion that frequently accompanies a local car accident. As the economy recovered, accidents actually increased during second half of last year. We would also like to add that motorists are facing an increased risk of being involved in a motor-vehicle accident as the spring and summer travel season approach. Hit-and-run accidents are also a common problem during periods of economic instability, when consumers are less likely to maintain adequate car insurance.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administrations (NHTSA) reports that the number of traffic fatalities fell roughly 3 percent from 2009 and 2010. Fatality numbers have dropped a total of 25 percent since 2005. The fatality decrease occurred despite an increase in miles traveled of more than 20 billion.

"The decrease in traffic fatalities is a good sign, but we are always working to save lives," said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland. "NHTSA will continue pressing forward on all of our safety initiatives to make sure our roads are as safe as they can possibly be."

The Department of Transportation (DOT) has worked long and hard and continues to make an attempt at reducing roadway fatalities by promoting strong traffic safety laws and by encouraging high-visibility enforcement. They also conduct rigorous vehicle safety programs and campaigns to raise awareness in the public.

In 2009, a national anti-distracted driving campaign was launched by Secretary LaHood to help reduce the number of nationwide motor-vehicle accident related deaths caused by careless driving habits. A number of other campaigns were launched as well, including "Over the Limit. Under Arrest." and "Click It Or Ticket" campaigns urging drivers to curb drunk driving and to increase seat belt use.

The U.S. DOT launched a website, Distraction.gov, dedicated to providing the public with information, statistics, consequences and tips on distracted driving.

According to the NHTSA's Region Map, Missouri, of Region 7, experienced a decrease in traffic accident fatalities of nearly 3 percent in 2010.

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CDC Releases Report of Most Expensive States for Car Accidents

A recently released survey concluded that 10 states in the U.S. contributed half of the $41 billion dollars nationwide cost of fatal motor car accidents in Missouri and elsewhere across the U.S. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released the survey this month -- reporting that 10 states accounted for more than $20 billion in costs.
Our Missouri personal injury attorneys fight for the rights of motorists in Joplin, the Bootheel, Colombia and Springfield. We understand that Missouri was a big contributor in this total as we forked over more than $1 billion for medical and work loss costs.

The total cost results were taken from 2005 data, as it is the most recent available year for the most comprehensive data on costs for medical and work loss. Death cases are all too tragic reminders of the cost of crashes caused by motorists who are inattentive, speeding, drunk or otherwise negligent in causing a serious or fatal accident.

The CDC found that the following 10 states ranked the highest for medical and work loss costs:

-California ($4.16 billion)

-Texas ($3.50 billion)

-Florida ($3.16 billion)

-Georgia ($1.55 billion)

-Pennsylvania ($1.52 billion)

-North Carolina ($1.50 billion)

-New York ($1.33 billion)

-Illinois ($1.32 billion)

-Ohio ($1.23 billion)

-Tennessee ($1.15 billion).

"Deaths from motor vehicle crashes are preventable," said CDC Director Thomas R. Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. "Seat belts, graduated driver's license programs, child safety seats, and helmet use save lives and reduce health care costs."

The release of the new fact sheet highlighting these state-based costs will be distributed just in time to coincide with the launch of the Decade of Action for Road Safety. This campaign, proclaimed by The United Nations General Assembly, calls 2011 to 2020 the Decade of Action for Road Safety.

Through these statistics, the CDC also found the cost related to crash deaths among children and teenagers under the age of 19 was close to $900 million. In Missouri, nearly 100 teen fatalities resulted from motor-vehicle accidents in 2009, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The statistics also released the total costs for fatal car accidents in Missouri. We racked in more than $1 billion in these costs, $10 million in medical and more than $1 billion in work loss costs. Nearly $700 million of these costs were caused by the fatalities of motor-vehicle occupants -- more than 60 percent.

"It's tragic to hear that anyone dies on our nation's roads. But it's especially so when the person who loses his or her life is a child or teenager," said Linda Degutis, Dr. P.H., M.S.N., director, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. "Child passenger safety laws and comprehensive graduated driver licensing laws are proven to protect young lives. We encourage states to strengthen and enforce these laws to help keep more of our young people safe."

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