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Yearly Archives: 2016

Senate Report: Ineffective Medical Device Monitoring Puts Patients at Risk

Dec 30, 2016 - Personal Injury by

Doctors use duodenoscopes to perform valuable diagnostics that can be vital to patients. However, these devices are known to have significant risks of infection, even after they have undergone recommended cleaning procedures. Earlier in 2016, the U.S. Senate issued a Minority Staff Report that expressed significant concerns about known links between duodenoscopes and increasing cases of Carbapenem-Resistant Enterobacteriacea (CRE). Since CRE is also known as a superbug that does not respond well to most antibiotic treatments, patients need to understand the risks. In this case, an ounce of prevention is definitely worth a pound of cure. Much of the Failure Points to Lapses in Communication The direct cause of the CRE infections is linked to difficulty in fully cleaning duodenoscopes. Even though manufacturers issued detailed cleaning instructions that were followed by medical providers, it appeared that those instructions did not fully remove the CRE-causing bacteria. Still, the direct cause of infection was far from the only problem. Even as medical providers, device manufacturers and even the federal government became aware of potential issues, a series of communication errors like the following seems to have prevented a timely effected response: At least 16 hospitals that had traced the infections to duodenoscopes did not notify federal regulators or send the required notification to the device manufacturers. Hospitals that did report events to manufacturers did not issue reports quickly, and they issued informal phone or email reports that did not include the information needed by the manufacturers to submit accurate reports for the […]

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Achieving Maximum Value in Personal Injury Cases (Part III): Damages

Dec 26, 2016 - Personal Injury by

Obviously, the nature and extent of damages play a central role in obtaining the maximum value in personal injury cases. It is incumbent upon us as lawyers for the injured client to employ the most effective ways to present the injuries and damages. We find that by doing certain things in the work up of the damages part of the case the value is greatly enhanced. As a preliminary matter, we make certain that we have copies of every medical record and medical expense involved in the client’s course of treatment. We also request copies of all prior medical records for at least five years before the injury occurred. That way, we are prepared to address the presence or absence of any pre-existing injuries or conditions. Our staff does an excellent job of collecting this information and making summaries of the medical treatments and records. In addition to photographs that depict the injuries at various stages of the client’s recovery, we often order specially prepared medical illustrations that depict the internal damage resulting from a personal injury. The medical illustrations are prepared from the client’s medical records, x-rays, CT scans, MRIs, etc. by Medical Legal Art in Kennesaw, Georgia. They are expensive, but can be very compelling evidence of serious internal injuries and surgeries. It is important to document past and future lost income as an item of special damages. We have a form letter that we mail to the client’s employer for completion so that total time and income […]

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Achieving Maximum Value in Personal Injury Cases (Part II): Jurisdiction and Discovery

Dec 23, 2016 - Personal Injury by

Selection of jurisdiction and venue is one of the most important factors in the value of any case. The jury venire, rules of court, and judges are all considerations. We typically prefer state court, but sometimes choose to file the case in federal court if there is diversity of jurisdiction. We often do so because the state venue may be more conservative. For instance, the Western Division of the Northern District is made up of at least three counties that are historically far more liberal than Tuscaloosa County (Greene, Pickens and Sumter). The jury venire is drawn from the Western Division, which includes these three counties. An additional factor involves expert testimony. Under the Federal Rules of Evidence, expert witnesses are permitted to give opinions as to the ultimate issue in the case. We handle a number of cases in Mississippi. My law partner, Justin Smith, is licensed to practice in Mississippi. Occasionally, we have cases that allow us to choose between the two states. In those instances, we compare and contrast the available venues in both states and consider any evidence of negligence on the part of our client. Mississippi is a pure comparative negligence state while Alabama has maintained contributory negligence as a defense. We believe it is imperative to explore all options regarding venue in state court. For better or worse, the county where the case is filed will play a significant role in the evaluation by both plaintiff and defendant. We owe it to our clients […]

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Achieving Maximum Value in Personal Injury Cases: A Three-Part Series

Dec 19, 2016 - Personal Injury by

In every personal injury case, the goal should always be to achieve the maximum value available based on the applicable liability and damages. Personal injury claims involve both special and general compensatory damages and punitive damages in cases involving wantonness. There are numerous factors to be considered in evaluating a personal injury case, including the basis for fault, whether negligence or wantonness, the type of injuries and medical treatment, the amount of special damages, especially medical expenses and lost income, availability of collateral source payments, the extent of permanent injury and disfigurement, jurisdiction and venue, whether the defendant is an individual or corporate entity, and the appearance and demeanor of plaintiff and defendant. The preparation and handling of personal injury cases encompasses all of these factors, but we have found that certain activities and factors play a large role in achieving the maximum value. Although certainly not an exhaustive list, the following considerations are ones that we believe and have found to be particularly important. Investigation An investigation conducted before and after suit is filed often yields information that can greatly increase the value of a case. The information can be gathered from several different sources. As an initial matter, we routinely research Alacourt, Accurint, Motor Vehicle Reports, and Pacer to obtain information regarding the prior history of defendants and/or employees of defendants. Information regarding residency, employment history, criminal records, civil lawsuits, driving records and bankruptcy filings are available from these sources. The information derived from these sources often leads […]

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Senate Initiates an Inquiry Into the Practice of Overlapping Surgeries

Nov 25, 2016 - Personal Injury by

Few things are more impressive than watching a surgeon run between multiple surgical arenas and save many lives at once on television medical dramas. Surprisingly, this practice is not necessarily fiction. Known as concurrent or double-booked surgeries, the practice probably threatens successful surgical outcomes more easily than it saves lives. In March 2016, the Boston Globe reported that Senator Orrin Hatch initiated an investigation into this practice, specifically related to one hospital, but then extending to other hospitals. Concurrent surgeries are a relatively common practice across the U.S., particularly in the area of orthopedics. In some cases it is permitted to a limited degree, but surgical patients need to be aware of it and know how to help protect themselves. Key Points About Concurrent Surgeries It is not uncommon for surgeons to move from one surgical procedure to the next, leaving the final steps to other members of the surgical team. In fact, even Medicare views the practice as acceptable, as long as surgeons are present for critical or key portions of the surgery. Unfortunately, the investigation uncovered unacceptable practices, such as the following: Patients left under anesthesia, waiting for the surgeon to arrive from another procedure Key portions of procedures performed by unsupervised medical residents Surgical procedures rushed due to double-booking Surgeons who fail to respond to urgent situations in one of two booked surgeries Surgeons performing concurrent surgeries at different facilities miles apart Patients who are not informed that their procedures are scheduled concurrently with other patients It […]

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Tuscaloosa Injury Attorney Warns of Playground Concussion Dangers

Nov 18, 2016 - Personal Injury by

The potential long-term risk from concussion injuries from football and other sports is no longer news. The media has done an impressive job of reporting how concussions can lead to serious limitations later in life, particularly when victims return to play without permitting proper healing time. Unfortunately, parents may not realize that concussion risks extend well beyond sports playing fields. A recent NBC article has alerted the public that playground concussions are on the rise. They report that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says that accidents on playground monkey bars and swings are sending children to emergency rooms at an increasing rate with brain injuries. Precautionary Measures Can Help Reduce the Risks of Playground Accidents Few parents would send their children out to the homes of friends without knowing that the people and home are safe. Playgrounds may be designed for children, but parents need to perform due diligence to ensure that any facility is appropriate for their children. The following tips may not absolutely eliminate the chance of injury, but they can help reduce the risks: Become familiar with each playground. Do not assume that all playgrounds are equal in terms of safety. Before allowing children to use a specific playground, parents need to check for safe conditions, such as soft surfaces and equipment in good repair. Assess equipment based on the child’s age. The National Program for Playground Safety offers tips for assessing equipment based on the size and ability of children. Playgrounds can be important tools […]

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Obtaining Certain Treatment for Workplace Injuries May Require Pre-Approval

Oct 31, 2016 - Workers' Compensation/Work Injury by

As a general rule, any employee who sustains a workplace injury in Alabama expects to seek immediate treatment under workers’ compensation. However, the Alabama Department of Industrial Relations Administrative Code requires pre-certification in certain relatively-common situations. These requirements can leave injured workers facing significant out-of-pocket expenses. Still, the rules can be open to a certain degree of interpretation. It helps to become familiar with the pre-certification process that can occur between medical providers and individuals representing the details of claims. Most importantly, injured employees should seek advice from an experienced Tuscaloosa workplace injury lawyer before assuming that they are responsible for personally paying the expenses. How Pre-Certification Works Meeting pre-certification requirements is the responsibility of medical providers — not injured employees. Once providers determine that emergency conditions do not apply, the Code requires that they apply for certification before rendering certain medical services, such as (but certainly not limited to) the following: Inpatient admission of any type Elective procedures, including ambulatory or outpatient surgery Outpatient physical, occupational and speech therapy Chiropractic services Medical management services requested by the employer The list extends to ambulance services and any number of pain management procedures, durable medical equipment other than items such as braces and splints and items that require reimbursements of $500 or more. Even procedures that injury victims assume to be necessary — such as Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) or Computerized Axial Tomography (CAT) scans that are commonly used diagnostic procedures — can be subject to denial in many cases. Denial […]

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Sleep Apnea in Truckers Places Motorists at Risk

Oct 21, 2016 - Truck Accidents by

Many drivers have nodded off for a split second behind the wheel. This experience is as terrifying as having no memory of driving the last 5 or 10 miles. Drowsy drivers take real risks with their own lives and those of others. Place the drowsy driver in control of a massive tractor trailer truck, and the risks increase dramatically. Each Tuscaloosa truck wreck lawyer at our firm is pleased that hours of service laws help ensure that truckers take the time for the rest they need. Unfortunately, the right number of hours of sleep does not necessarily create enough rest when medical conditions affect the quality of sleep. One Study Shows Sleep Apnea to Be a Notable Issue for Truckers Simply stated, sleep apnea is a breathing-related disorder that interrupts breathing during sleep. In its extreme forms, this condition can be life-threatening. Since just about any level of severity can interrupt restful sleep, however, it leaves many individuals drowsy even after they believe they had a good night’s sleep. An article published by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration cites one study that states that 28 percent of commercial truck drivers have mild to severe sleep apnea. The article goes on to list a wide array of factors that places individuals at higher risk for this disorder, including (but not limited to) the following: A family history of sleep apnea Overweight Certain physical attributes, such as a large neck, recessed chin and others Smoking and alcohol use Age over 40 […]

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NHTSA Urges Drivers to Proactively Check for Vehicle Recalls

Sep 23, 2016 - Car Accidents by

In 2015, about 51 million vehicles were affected by recalls. Yet, 25 percent of those vehicles are left unrepaired. This is why the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) started 2016 off with the Safe Cars Save Lives campaign, which urges vehicle owners to check for vehicle recalls even when they have received no recall notice. Each Tuscaloosa auto injury lawyer at our firm has seen too many cases of accidents that might have been avoided by simple auto repairs. It takes only a small amount of effort for motorists to find out if their vehicles are safe. Every Driver Should be Aware of Vehicle Safety Defects Many drivers have experienced the frustration of a car that stalls out in traffic. The frustration increases when the drivers learn that an active recall exists. If notified, they might have avoided an inconvenient situation. This is an example of a recall that is not specifically safety-related. However, some recalls pertain to defects that pose imminent danger, such as might be the case in situations such as the following: Airbags that inflate prematurely or with too much force, as is the case in the nation’s largest product recall Defective wheels that can cause drivers to lose control Wiring system defects that can cause fires Faulty accelerator or braking controls The chances are that individuals who purchase their cars new from a dealership will receive timely notification of serious defects such as these. However, vital notices can get lost in the mail, particularly when […]

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Workplace Injuries from Equipment Often Justify Third-Party Claims

Sep 9, 2016 - Tuscaloosa by

Any injured Alabama employee can certainly appreciate a workers’ compensation system that pays expenses related to on-the-job injury, usually without regard for liability on the part of the employee or the employer. Still, when a third party causes the injury, liability issues can be back on the table. Our Tuscaloosa workers compensation lawyers regularly assist workers who are seriously injured by defective or otherwise-unsafe equipment. In these cases, workers’ compensation still provides the benefits needed for immediate treatment, but injury victims have every right to pursue additional compensation from any third party responsible for the condition of the equipment. Employees Often Blame Themselves for Equipment Injuries All too often, workers assume that their own negligence somehow caused equipment to injure them, such as in the following circumstances: The equipment was so new that they did not fully understand how to operate it safely. Knowing that the equipment was very old, they should have taken extra precautions when using it. They failed to notice a warning label that announced a safety risk. Safety devices had been removed to make machine operation easier. Of course, every situation has unique aspects, but as a general rule, individuals should not suffer injuries when they use equipment at work. Whether a manufacturer built an unsafe device that injured a worker, or even if a repair shop caused injuries due to errors made during routine maintenance, there is a good chance that a third party was ultimately liable. Alabama Law Contains Strong Protections Related to the […]

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