Medical Malpractice

Medical Errors Now Third Leading Cause of Death in U.S.

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Medical Malpractice

Medical Errors Now Third Leading Cause of Death in U.S.

A recent study led by a research team at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, shows that ‘medical errors’ are now the third leading cause of death in the U.S., behind cancer and heart disease.

For the purpose of the study, ‘medical errors’ was defined as someone dying as a result of the care received versus the disease for which they were seeking care. This included bad doctors, miscommunication between departments, administering the wrong drug or the wrong amount of a prescribed drug, etc. The report, which researched studies from the years 2000-2008, estimates an average of 700 wrongful deaths a day. That’s nearly 251k deaths per year ranking above other preventable causes such as accidents (136k) and suicide (42k).

Some speculate the cause is a lack of standardization with regards to health care. Others believe that without federal requirements in place to report errors, hospital lack the ability to track, investigate and subsequently train for improvement. This study shines a light on a serious issue that hospitals are not addressing with the general public. Hopefully, it will force it a change.

If you or someone you know has been injured as a result of medical error or malpractice, please Contact Us for a complimentary case consultation.

Source: www.washingtonpost.com

Do you have a medical malpractice claim?

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Medical Malpractice

Do you have a medical malpractice claim?

People usually visit the doctor for preventative care or to help improve their health, but in some cases, people leave in worse condition. Sometimes, that could be due to a doctor’s negligent behavior, or it could just be the unfortunate case of one’s health. If a doctor was negligent, you may be eligible to pursue a medical malpractice claim for compensation for your injuries.

In order to have a valid claim, there are a few things you must prove. Medical malpractice claims are very complex and difficult to pursue. Many states are also limited by tort reform. Due to the fact there are a number of variables that could have led to the injury or wrongful death, you and your attorney must prove in these things order to have a case:

There was a relationship between the doctor and the patient. If you were treated directly by the doctor, than it is fairly easy to prove. In some cases, there are consulting physicians and it can make it more difficult to establish that there was an actual relationship between the doctor and the patient.

-The doctor was negligent in his/her actions. This is often the most difficult and misunderstood area that must be proven. Although you may have not been pleased with the treatment or the results of the treatment, it does not mean that there was negligence. In order to have a solid medical malpractice claim, one must prove that the doctor deviated from the appropriate standard of care. In many cases, the doctor may have not done something the best way possible, but they did not deviate from the standard of care.

-You must be able to prove that the injury or death was a direct result of the doctor’s negligence. With patients with serious underlying health conditions, this may be difficult. Medical experts can help determine if the doctor’s actions directly affected the injury or death, but if the injury or death would have occurred either way, there is no case. For instance, if the doctor failed to diagnose a patient with an issue, but the patient died due to a different and unrelated issue then the doctor’s negligence did not directly affect the injury or death.

-There must be severe and significant damages. Once you have determined that the doctor acted negligently and that the negligence caused the injury, you must then evaluate the recoverable damages. Damages include pain, suffering, lost wages, earning capacity and medical bills.

The best way to determine if you have a medical malpractice case worth pursuing is to contact an experienced attorney. Feel free to contact our law offices today for a free consultation regarding your claim.

Fooled Both Ways: Tort Reform and Its False Promises

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Judge - Marietta Attorney

Fooled Both Ways: Tort Reform and Its False Promises

A noted philosopher once said, “There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn’t true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true.” The truth of that is shown in many areas, but none more obvious than the insurance industry’s “tort reform” efforts over the past few decades. A “tort claim” is a civil action against someone who harmed you unintentionally. Tort claims have been around for hundreds of years. “Tort reform” has been a consistent series of recent legislative efforts to restrict or reduce the injured person’s ability to file such a claim in the first place, or to reduce the amount of damages that the person can receive if they are able to file one. Citing no evidence beyond the laudable “need” to improve healthcare and reduce costs, the industry convinced state legislatures in many states to enact tort reforms that severely restricted a malpractice victim’s right to sue and to get full compensation.

The trouble with all that, of course, is that the industry cited no real evidence that the reforms would actually work. Or, that there was even a problem that needed solving in the first place.   Opponents of tort reform pointed that out, repeatedly, and gave legislators copies of the Harvard, RAND, and other studies showing that there was no medical malpractice crisis, and that the real crisis was the number of people that doctors kill and maimed annually. The legislators nonetheless fell for the industry’s slick lies, and still passed the “reforms.” And not one of the reforms worked to improve healthcare. All they did was restrict access to courts and prevent many victims from moving forward with a lawsuit.   Which is what the industry really wanted. Let’s look at some of those slick lies.

There is a medical malpractice crisis. There is, but not the one the industry talked about. It claimed that legions of frivolous lawsuits were clogging the courts and hurting healthcare. That’s not true, and the legislators knew it years ago. The statistical data showed every time that there were not too many lawsuits. If anything, there were too few, as medical malpractice was harming more people per year (some 98,000 or more per one study) than guns!

Doctors were fleeing their practices in droves. That too was not true. The insurance and legislators put out anecdotal evidence, but no data. The real data showed that very few doctors were leaving the practice, especially they so much time, money, and effort to become doctors.

Scared doctors practice “defensive” medicine, and order scores of unnecessary medical tests and procedures to cover themselves. This too was never true, but like the other arguments it sounded good. The reality, again, was far different. Doctors think about their patients and order the tests they need.  There were no studies that proved the industry’s claims. Recent studies show for a fact that doctors were not practicing defensive medicine and that tort reform has done nothing to reduce the amount of tests and procedures the doctors order to treat their patients. Again, before many of these reform measures were passed, the industry knew they were not true. GAO and Congressional Office of Technology Assessment reports had proven those claims false. Not deterred by facts and truth, the industry lobbyists got legislators to pass “reforms” left and right.

Defense verdicts prove there are so many frivolous cases. Again, this was not true. First, no victim can file a case unless an expert says there was malpractice. That requirement has been around forever. Second, medical malpractice cases are quite difficult, as the juries want to give the doctor the benefit of the doubt.  However, the best cases settle. In droves. What is left are the most difficult, and they do go to trial—and many of those are lost because of their difficulty, not because of frivolity.

Reduced claims and reforms will lower the cost of malpractice insurance for the doctors. This was, by far, about the biggest lie the industry told. To date, premium reduction has been almost nil. But insurance profits are up, no doubt.

Jurors give runaway awards when deciding malpractice cases. Again, not true.   Juries are, in the main, excellent at determining the value of a case. They are conservative by nature. We know this from years of practice and a report from the Department of Justice. It showed that the median medical malpractice award from a jury was $400,000. But, the median award from judges, when they were deciding the case as they can do by agreement of the parties, was $631,000. In other words, juries are decidedly more conservative than highly trained judges, who see these cases day in and day out.

Caps on damages will improve healthcare and reduced costs. Study after study has shown this to be false. What the caps really do is make it harder for victims to find lawyers, who must base their decision to take a case on risk. Lawyers practice law and business and must invest in cases based on risk, just like any other business. Medical malpractice cases usually cost over $50,000 to pursue, and if the damages award is capped, then lawyers cannot afford to take the case because the potential return is outweighed by the risk, and the return to the client of is little help. Caps do nothing more than shut down cases before they are filed, and deprive victims of access to courts.

A 2012 study by the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine is the most recent study, of many such studies, that proves tort reform simply does not work. A team of five doctors and various health care experts studied claims in Georgia, South Carolina, and Texas. The study looked at 3.8 million ER cases in 1166 hospitals from 1996 to 2012. They chose ER cases because the emergency room was thought especially to need tort reform, and thus it is nearly impossible to sue an ER doctor for negligence. The study showed that the reforms did nothing to reduce the number of tests (MRIs, CTs, etc.) ordered. The reforms did not lower costs—even in places where the doctors are nearly insulated from suit. In other words, the reforms did not cause doctors to stop ordering tests and caring for their patients with the best and newest technology.

So what did the reforms really do? Absolutely nothing for the patients. Very little for the doctors. But a whole lot to swell the profits of the insurance companies, who did not reduce their premiums even though they saw fewer and fewer medical malpractice suits filed. It is a great gig if you can get it: have people pay you for insurance to protect against claims, but then enact legislation that reduces those claims, but not premiums. Slick. Fancy. And driven solely by greed.

Lesson Learned (among others). Legislators should enact legislation based on facts and data. Not on myth. Not on anecdote. Not on falsehoods. And certainly not to satisfy the heavily lobbied profit-driven wishes of a very greedy special interest group.

FDA enforces heart safety warnings on pain relievers

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FDA enforces heart safety warnings on pain relievers

The Food and Drug Administration are enforcing warning labels on popular pain relievers to inform consumers of new information found on the associated risks of heart attack and stroke.

The FDA is making the change after reviewing some outside studies and recommendations. The changes apply to all prescription non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, including arthritis treatments. The FDA is also planning on making the same changes to over-the-counter drugs such as Advil and Motrin, in the near future.

Currently, the warnings on the labels say that the products can increase the risk of heart-related problems if using long-term, but the FDA discovered that the risk is not just after long-term use. Heart attack or stroke can occur in the first few weeks of use and the risk increases with higher doses of the drugs. The FDA warns that anyone experiencing symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath or trouble breathing, weakness in one part or side of their body, and slurred speech should seek medical attention immediately if they have taken NSAIDs. It is always better to start with the lowest dosage possible and to try to start with Tylenol.

The change comes after the FDA’s ongoing safety reviews of the drugs since 2004, which was when Vioxx was pulled off the market for its correlation with heart attacks and strokes. The drug was marketed as being easier on the stomach but it had far worse side effects not mentioned. Its withdrawal created a new safety era at the FDA. Celebrax is the only drug in the same class at Vioxx that still remains on the market.

If you or someone you know has experienced injury due to a drug or medical advice, contact our law offices today for a free consultation.

Xarelto Lawsuits Continue with Wrongful Death Case

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Safety First - The Cooper Firm

Xarelto Lawsuits Continue with Wrongful Death Case

Xarelto has been named in another lawsuit due to the death of an elderly man in Missouri who was prescribed the medication in December 2012.

Xarelto has been a controversial blood thinning drug for quite some time. Many lawsuits have alleged the manufacturers of the drug have concealed information about the dangers and bleeding associated with the drug. Due to the large number of lawsuits, multi-district litigation was formed to consolidate the cases against Xarleto manufacturers, Johnson & Johnson and Janssen Pharmaceuticals.

The most recent case involved is the wrongful death of a Missouri man who died in May 2013, after taking the drug since December 2012. His widowed wife is seeking compensation for her spouse’s treatment and for her pain, suffering and anguish. After being prescribed the drug, the man was taken to the emergency room in May 2013 where he was diagnosed with cerebral hemorrhage. Although in intensive care, they were unable to stop the brain bleeding and he passed away soon after.

Although the drug was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2011 as treatment for clotting after knee or hip surgeries, the manufactures failed to note that the drug could cause an increased risk in bleeding. The drug was received as an alternative to warfarin, an anti-coagulant drug. Xarelto was marketed as a drug which people could maintain an active lifestyle with and that patients would not need frequent trips to the clinic. Unfortunately, this is a drug that should only be used under close supervision. It also has strong side effects of pulmonary embolism, which is what the drug is intended to prevent.

Although the Xarelto class action is still in the very early stages, new claims are being added every month and the drug still continues to be prescribed. In fact, drug sales rose 41 percent in quarter one of 2015.

If you or someone you know has been injured as a result of Xarelto or another drug, contact our law offices today for a free consultation.

New Medical Advancements Could Change Personal Injury Cases

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Settlement - The Cooper Firm

New Medical Advancements Could Change Personal Injury Cases

Advancement in medical treatment technology may have attorneys seeking damages to completely heal their clients

A new cyborg-style implant may give paralyzed patients the opportunity to walk again. Although it may seem like science fiction, French scientists have created a thin prosthetic ribbon which would align with the spinal cord to deliver electrical impulses and drugs. The scientists were able to create the ribbon to be soft enough to wear it without any discomfort. It is also extremely bendable. The implant, called ‘e-Dura’, was given to paralyzed rats. They were able to walk again after a short few weeks of training.

For human patients the implant would last about ten years before needing to be replaced. Because of the envelope of tissue around the spine, finding a product that will not rub and cause inflammation has been difficult. E-Dura is so pliable it can be placed directly on the spine and will not break. Although primarily tested on spinal cord injuries, scientists believe it could be used in epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, and for pain management.

New science fiction-like medical treatments could result in personal injury attorneys pushing for their injured clients to be completely healed. Many attorneys currently push for prostheses or other methods of treatment. This new groundbreaking implant could change the options for victims who have suffered from traumatic accidents. Although there is still a long way to go, it is something that we may see in the future.

Source: Science, Telegraph

FDA Opens Inquiry after Death from Saline Bags

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Safety First - The Cooper Firm

FDA Opens Inquiry after Death from Saline Bags

Hundreds of bags of saline solution meant for training health care workers were given to actual patients.  The products look like real IV bags and syringes and are used for demonstration and on dummies.  There were over 17 patients who had fallen ill after being given the solution and one hospice patient died. Health officials could not say whether the saline solution was the exact cause of death.  Some of the symptoms reported include, chills, fever, tremors and headaches. Wallcur, the San Diego-based company who manufactures the bags, recalled its saline solution and distilled water on January 7.

The company began shipping the saline bags in May of 2014. The bags were labeled “for clinical simulation,” and were not intended for people or animals because they were not sterile. The Food and Drug Administration has now opened an investigation. They reported that the bags were shipped to medical clinics, surgical centers, and urgent facilities. There were about 50 clinics that received the products. So far, investigations have traced the issue back to the distributer, which has not been named, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There is also further investigation on whether the items were shipped in error or ordered in error by clinic workers that didn’t realize they were for training.

Wallcur does not sell directly to hospitals and clinics, but to nursing schools and separate distributers. Wallcur also does not know who buys from the distributers. If you or someone you know has been injured as a result of negligence, contact our law offices today for a free consultation.

Source: The New York Times

How “Caps on Damages” Ruin Healthcare for Everyone

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Judge - Marietta Attorney

How “Caps on Damages” Ruin Healthcare for Everyone

Perhaps one of the most debated tort restrictions is whether or not there should be “caps on damages” in medical malpractice cases.  New research revealed that the issue may now be indisputable. In research done by Northwestern University, five “cap” states were studied that also had Patient Safety Indicators for at least two years before the caps passed for comparison along with control states. Patient Safety Indicators are standard measures of often preventable adverse events and include things such as operative and post-operative errors, infections, birth-related errors, and diseases and sickness developed from hospitals.

The study found “consistent evidence that patient safety generally falls” once caps are passed. “The decline is widespread, and applies to both aspects of care that are relatively likely to lead to a malpractice suit and aspects that are unlikely to do so.” The study also found “the broad relaxation of care suggest that med mal liability provides ‘general deterrence’ – an incentive to be careful in general – in addition to any ‘specific deterrence’ it may provide for particular actions.”

Not only does the standard of care decrease, but the study discovered that “caps on damages” increase health care cost. More specifically, they found that “damage caps have no significant impact on hospital spending, but lead to 4-5 percent higher physician spending.” This may relate to the fact that in states where there are “caps” physicians practice riskier medicine or high risk procedures.

Lastly, the study found that whenever a state passes “caps on damages” the state does not attract doctors and majority of doctors the state does attract are plastic surgeons. Researchers say there is “no evidence that cap adoption predicts an increase in total patient care physicians, in specialties that face high med mal risk (except plastic surgeons), or in rural physicians.”

Whether you live in one of these states or not, this results of this research should worry you. It is important to be aware of hospital care and what kind of affects “tort reform” laws have on you and your healthcare.

Source: The Deterrent Effect of Tort Law: Evidence from Medical Malpractice Reform, Northwestern University, Huffington Post

Documenting your injuries through photographs for a personal injury claim

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Auto Recall Attorney - The Cooper Firm

How to document your injuries through photographs

If you were injured due to the negligence of an individual or product, you will need to document the injuries. It is important to take good photos that can be used to help you claim. In some cases, the nurse or doctor will not write everything down in detail, so having good pictures can really prove what your injuries were.

There are a few things you should not do in your photos in order to show the injury in the best possible way:

-Do not wear jewelry or a lot of makeup.

-Make sure your clothing is clean, casual and wholesome.

-Try to take photos in an area without too much clutter.

-Be sure to take a shot that shows the whole person and then zoom in on the injury so that the photos identify who is in the picture.

-Take multiple shots and from different angles to show the injury.

-If possible, take photos with and without the brace or cast.

-Always date the photo so that the time frame is clear to others viewing.

-Make a disc with copies of the images in case you need to send them to your attorney’s office or need to reproduce them at all during your case.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact our experienced staff today.

Victim of Medical Wrongdoing?

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Victim of Medical Wrongdoing?

How many hoops should you have to jump through to get justice? It’s a fair question that many people struggle with. The CEO of a Georgia medical services company suggested – in an opinion piece submitted to a GA newspaper – that to be sure that Georgians who have been harmed by negligent medical care are worthy of justice we should subject them to one more hoop. Not coincidentally, it’s a hoop that benefits only medical professionals and insurance companies – the only two interest groups that profit when injured patients are prevented from securing justice.

What the author of the opinion has proposed is that, instead of allowing victims of medical malpractice the same Constitutional Right to Trial by Jury enjoyed by all other Georgians, people harmed by medical wrongdoing/malpractice would have to get permission to have a jury trial from a “screening panel” comprised of members of the medical and insurance industries, the same industries that want to avoid compensating injured patients. This approach is wrong and adds an unnecessary, ineffective layer to our civil justice system.

The fact is all medical malpractice cases brought in Georgia have already been through multiple screening hoops. The first hoop is that you have to have had something very bad happen as a result of malpractice. Your next hoop is that you have to find a lawyer willing and able to take your case. That lawyer will tell you that there is another, special hoop that protects only professionals charged with negligence. In order to pass through that hoop, the patient must find a medical professional willing to publicly criticize their colleague and sign a document swearing that malpractice happened. So far your case has been screened three times: Something bad happens. You find a lawyer who will invest in helping you find justice. And, you find another doctor who agrees that there was malpractice and is willing to say so. Then there’s a fourth screening before you can have a jury hear your case: the judge must screen the case, too.

Our Founding Fathers created the world’s best independent screening panels when they embedded the right to a trial by jury in our Constitution. You are entitled to a jury of your peers, not a two-step process, the first of which is a trial by jury of the defendant’s colleagues. We trust the people of our communities to fairly resolve our disputes when we are unable to resolve them ourselves.

The CEO cites an approach tried in Maine as being the right fit for us here in Georgia. He fails to mention that this approach is regularly criticized by the Supreme Court of Maine as being inadequate and harmful to the people of Maine. He cites, as a reason for needing “screening panels,” a Georgia case involving a plastic surgeon who carelessly destroyed the blood supply to a woman’s face and left her horribly disfigured. He suggests that this woman – who was horribly injured through no fault of her own and who successfully navigated all of the legal hurdles to hold the wrongdoer accountable for herself and other patients – has not done enough. He says she needs to clear yet another hurdle to prove herself worthy of a jury trial. The suggestion is outrageous and it serves no purpose but to deny those who have been harmed their fair measure of justice.

Why should patients who have been harmed by medical malpractice have to go through two trials when everyone else only has to go through one? Why should medical professionals get special treatment? It’s a question with an obvious answer: They shouldn’t.

By Lance Cooper


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