Hospital ordered to pay $32.8 million to brain-damaged girl

In Pennsylvania, a girl was born with permanent brain injury due to the hospital staff’s failure to react to a critical problem during delivery. The nurses who provided care during the delivery noticed a drastic drop in the baby’s heart rate, but failed to notify the doctor for 13 minutes. Once the doctor discovered the issue, further delays to perform an emergency Caesarian section resulted in a 32 minute time lapse between the time the baby first went into distress and the time of delivery.

Medical professionals estimated that performing the C-section 15 minutes earlier would have prevented the girl from developing cerebral palsy. Recently, a jury found the two nurses who failed to report the initial issue guilty of negligence. The jury awarded $32.8 million in compensation to the parents to provide for their daughter’s medical care for the rest of her life.

Labor and delivery mistakes are common causes of infant injury and death

Although the infant mortality rate in the United States declined significantly during the last century, because of the risks associated with childbirth, birth error continues to be one of the highest areas involving medical malpractice. According to the most recent statistics published by the National Vital Statistics Report, accidents or unintentional injuries during birth were the cause of 5 percent of infant deaths in 2010.

Hospital staff is more likely to make mistakes that increase the risk of injury or death during a delivery when they do not have proper training, when doctors are careless, and when emergencies arise that require immediate action. Examples of emergencies include a baby that is breech, an abnormal heart rate, or a baby’s head getting stuck in the birth canal. These complications and others must be treated quickly in order to prevent permanent damage or death.

Inaction and improper action cause most malpractice errors

A common cause of birth injury or death that occurs as a direct result of birth error is a lack of oxygen to the infant. In addition, hospital staff have also committed the following errors:

  • Lack of proper monitoring of the baby
  • Lack of detection for changes in heart rate, oxygen and fetal distress
  • Lack of caution when using surgical tools, forceps and vacuums
  • Lack of timely diagnosis of birth complication, such as the baby being too large for the birth canal or tangled umbilical cord

Because of the permanent damage that these types of medical malpractice errors may cause to infants, parents who find themselves in this position should not delay seeking legal counsel to secure compensation to provide for their child’s future medical expenses.

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Illinois lawmakers considering expanded use of speed cameras

In the United States in 2010, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that vehicle accidents involving speeding cost $210 billion in economic and societal harm. Although speed-related crashes cause serious injury and death across the country, Illinois is one of seven states that limit the use of speed cameras. Twelve other states prohibit their use. Speed cameras sense and discourage motorists from exceeding the speed limit with automated enforcement technology. Representatives in Illinois want to install speed cameras in communities smaller than the current minimum of one million people. Chicago is the only city in the state that meets the current criteria.

Support for the installation of speed cameras

Belleville Representative Jay Hoffman is the state lawmaker who introduced the legislation. Many law enforcement officials agree that enacting this law uniformly across the state would promote safety by reducing speed-related car accidents in problem areas, particularly school zones. Hillsdale Representative Mike Smiddy agrees that speed cameras are necessary to protect children in school zones.

Speed-related accidents cause nearly half of fatal crashes in Illinois

According to United States census statistics, 911 fatalities occurred in Illinois in 2009 because of speed-related accidents. Exceeding the posted speed limit is a factor in more than 40 percent of the fatal crashes in Illinois. In a recent case, an 18-year-old girl died in a crash on her way home from work. Local law enforcement said the accident appeared to be speed related because there was not another car involved in the accident, and toxicology reports indicated that alcohol was not involved.

Motorists believe speed cameras violate their rights

While legislators and law enforcement officers and numerous reports by various agencies maintain that automated enforcement technology such as speed cameras have the potential to make the roads safer, motorists do not agree. Many have argued that using cameras to enforce traffic laws has been used as a revenue generator for private agencies, or that technology used to record infractions violate individual rights to privacy.

Lawmakers addressed these concerns more than a decade ago, and set mandates for the use of revenue garnered from tickets issued from evidence provided by speed cameras. Regarding the assertion that motorists’ privacy rights have been violated, courts have ruled that, because driving a vehicle takes place in public and is a privilege not guaranteed for everyone, privacy while operating the vehicle is not protected by the Constitution.

Individuals injured in a speed-related accident should seek legal counsel for compensation due to a driver’s negligence or reckless driving.

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Patients may not notice potentially fatal retained sponges

An operation always has a measure of risk involved. This risk includes complications during the procedure and the possibility of surgical errors, which puts patients’ lives in danger. In Chicago and throughout the United States, medical malpractice causes numerous hardships for patients who are impacted.

During a typical procedure, dozens of surgical sponges are placed inside of a patient’s body to soak up fluids. Upon conclusion of the operation, they resemble surrounding tissue, which creates a challenge for surgical staff who depend on manual counting methods to remove all of the sponges. Because these methods are prone to human error, many medical malpractice cases involve retained surgical sponge mistakes.

Identifying the error

According to an article in USA Today, medical errors involving surgical sponge retention often take place over a dozen times per day throughout the country. These errors are referred to as never-events because they are simply not supposed to happen. Government statistics do not reveal the accurate prevalence of retained sponges, but it is believed that they affect thousands of people each year. When doctors leave these sponges in patients, the patients could remain unaware of their presence for months, or even years.

After leaving an Alabama hospital in 2010, one woman suffered from complications following a cesarean section. Her stomach grew over the next several weeks and her bowels stopped functioning altogether. Her doctor told her to go to the emergency room right away.

The consequences of retained sponges

X-rays revealed that the woman had a large surgical sponge in her abdomen, prompting an emergency surgery and a lengthy hospital stay. For this woman, her symptoms appeared relatively quickly but this is not always the case. People who struggle with retained sponges (whether they are aware of it or not) may experience a variety of health problems, such as:

  • A considerable amount of pain
  • Disruptions to their digestive system
  • Infections
  • Fever
  • The need for additional surgery
  • Psychological and emotional problems

Some patients are unable to survive the serious setbacks that retained sponges cause while others may struggle with these setbacks for the rest of their lives. One man in Florida will always have to wear a waste pouch due to an infection caused by retained surgical sponges and the removal of part of his intestine.

Other complications can also arise from retained surgical sponge errors, especially financial difficulties. Hospitalizations for retained sponges typically cost over $60,000, according to Medicare and this can be a large burden for victims and their families to bear. If someone is pursuing medical malpractice damages, they should thoroughly evaluate the details of their situation with an experienced attorney.

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New study shows effects of cognitive distractions on drivers

Motor vehicle accidents are all too common throughout the U.S. In 2012 alone, there were more than 270,000 collisions in the state of Illinois. Accidents can be caused by any number of factors, but historically, speeding and alcohol have been the top contributors. According to the National Safety Council, distractions are now also among the leading causes for motor vehicle involved crashes in America. A study conducted by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute found that a distraction of some kind was involved in 80 percent of all auto accidents.

Distractions facing today’s drivers

In relation to driving, a distraction is anything that is competing for a driver’s attention. There are numerous distractions that may divert a motorist’s attention away from the road, including listening to the radio, talking on the phone and text messaging. For the most part, there are three primary types of distractions – visual, manual and cognitive. Visual distractions are those that take the driver’s eyes off of the road. Manual distractions take the driver’s hands off of the wheel. Cognitive distractions are those that take the driver’s mind off of the task of driving.

Studying the effects of cognitive distractions

Of the distractions drivers face, the effects of mental distractions are the least researched. The goal of a recent study by the American Automobile Association’s Foundation for Traffic Safety was to gain a better understanding of how cognitive distractions affect drivers by creating a scale to measure these types of distractions. 

In the study, participants were asked to perform different tasks in a lab, a driving simulator and an instrumented car. Electronic sensors, cameras and other equipment were used to gather data throughout the tasks. Researchers determined the low and high end of the scale by monitoring the participants driving without any distraction and while completing a set of complex math and verbal problems. The study participants were also asked to listen to the radio, listen to an audiobook, talk on both a hand-held and a hands-free phone, converse with a passenger and use some type of speech-to-text technology.

Study shows mental distractions a threat 

The study’s findings showed that drivers could be distracted, even if their eyes were on the road and their hands on the wheel. The use of speech-to-text technologies and other hands-free options has long been thought of as effective in reducing distractions to a driver. However, the study showed that using this type of technology was one of the most distracting tasks for drivers. On the whole, the tasks were shown to cause increased mental workloads for the drivers, which resulted in:

  • Compromised brain function
  • Slowed reaction time
  • Narrowed field of vision
  • Missed visual cues

In January of 2014, Illinois passed a law banning the use of hand-held phones by drivers. Based on the new study, however, going hands-free may not be enough to keep drivers from getting into a distraction related accident. Therefore, avoiding all distractions while driving is the best way for motorists to ensure that they are not endangering themselves or anyone else.

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