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House Passes Bill to Cap Medical Malpractice Awards

The U.S. House of Representatives has passed H.R. 5, the Protecting Access to Healthcare (PATH) Act. The proposed law would limit the amount of compensation a plaintiff could receive in a medical malpractice lawsuit. The bill’s proponents claim that the change will result in lower insurance premiums and healthcare costs. Critics say that the law would protect negligent healthcare providers from the consequences of their own wrongdoing.

The PATH Act would cap non-economic damages at $250,000 in a medical malpractice lawsuit. This means that while an injured patient’s expenses for medical care and lost wages would continue to be covered in full, intangible damages such as pain and suffering would not be compensable above the $250,000 limit. A number of states already impose similar limits, but the proposed law would impose a federal standard throughout the United States. The law would apply to all medical negligence, including malpractice, unsafe pharmaceuticals and abuse and neglect in nursing homes.

Advocates of the proposed law refer to the change as medical malpractice reform, and claim that it will reduce the number of “frivolous lawsuits” filed against medical practitioners. According to these proponents, expensive lawsuits lead to higher malpractice insurance premiums for medical practitioners, driving up the cost of healthcare for everyone. Thus, these advocates say, the bill will protect access to healthcare for the American people.

Opponents of the bill counter that the real purpose of the PATH Act is to protect negligent medical providers, pharmaceutical corporations and insurance companies from the legal consequences of medical malpractice. According to these critics, caps on damages would not only result in injured patients not receiving the compensation they deserve, it could actually lead to a decrease in the quality of healthcare, as medical practitioners would have less reason to fear the consequences of their negligence.

Critics point out a perverse consequence of the proposed law: the people most affected by the limits on compensation would necessarily be those who have experienced the most physical pain as the result of medical negligence. In addition, by capping non-economic damages, the bill has the potential to discriminate against certain members of society. When seniors and children are victims of medical malpractice, they have lower economic damages, on average, in terms of lost wages and earning potential. Limiting non-economic damages thus affects these more vulnerable victims disproportionately.

Before the PATH Act can become law, it faces a tough battle in the Senate, and the strong possibility of a Presidential veto.

Contact a Chicago medical malpractice lawyer and Chicago medical malpractice attorney with Briskman Briskman & Greenberg. To learn more call 1.877.595.4878 or visit http://www.briskmanandbriskman.com/.

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Advocates Working to Require Rear-View Cameras for Automobile Safety

Groups working for automobile safety are asking the federal government to require rear-view cameras on new model cars, a move they say will save lives. More than 300 people die each year in accidents that involve a car backing up.

A major part of the problem is the “blind spot.” As trucks, SUVs and vans are made larger and taller, this “spot” has grown to a zone that can be as deep as 50 feet. To dramatize the potentially deadly effect of a blind spot this large, the organization KidsAndCars.org recently showed that 62 toddlers could simultaneously fit within the blind spot of one SUV.

Consumer Reports produces a rating of rear blind zones on vehicles. Pickups, vans and SUVs consistently score the worst. The Chevrolet Avalanche, with a 5’1” tall driver behind the wheel, topped the charts with a blind zone 50 feet deep. With a rear-view camera, advocates say, the blind zone would be reduced to zero.

Of course, backup cameras cannot turn unsafe drivers into safe ones, but there is no question that the lack of visibility when backing up creates a potentially dangerous problem for even the most cautious of drivers.

Rear-view camera advocates are questioning why the government has been slow to require them.

Mandatory backup cameras were first proposed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in 2010, to be effective for 2014 model cars. Safety regulators were acting on a 2008 mandate from Congress to improve visibility. Since then, the rules have been delayed three times. Transportation officials say that more time is needed for analysis and research. The rule will be revisited in December of this year.

That’s not soon enough for camera advocates, who say that the lives of children hang in the balance.

The automobile industry denies requesting the delay in requiring cameras, but says that more research is needed into alternatives such as larger rear-view mirrors. Wade Newton, a spokesperson for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, an industry lobbying organization, said that larger mirrors might actually be safer, as they would perform better in low-light conditions.

Janette Fennell, of the KidsAndCars.org group, countered that large mirrors may obstruct the forward view, thus compounding an already dangerous condition

Safety advocates and the automobile industry will have their eyes on the NHTSA in December, when the proposed rules will be revisited.

Contact a Chicago car accident lawyer and Chicago car accident attorney with Briskman Briskman & Greenberg. To learn more call 1.877.595.4878 or visit http://www.briskmanandbriskman.com/.

Changes Ahead for Illinois Workers Compensation System

The Illinois Workers’ Compensation system is being challenged on multiple fronts, as Republicans in both the Illinois House and Senate are pushing bills to limit claims by injured workers, and a state audit has reported numerous problems with the system for paying injured state workers.

The Illinois House is considering H.B. 6145, which would give employers credits for past payments made to injured workers who sustained injuries to their “person as a whole.” The bill, introduced by llinois Rep. Dwight Kay, R-Glen Carbon, has been sent to the House rules committee.

The Illinois Senate is considering a separate bill that is also purportedly intended to reduce workers’ compensation costs to the state. Senate Bill 2521 would expressly eliminate payments for idiopathic injuries – those injuries with an unknown or indeterminable cause. The proposed law would also require injured employees to receive care from a workers’ compensation physician within their employer’s preferred network. The bill, introduced by Republican state Sen. Kyle McCarter, has been referred to the state Senate’s executive committee.

Meanwhile, a state audit released on April 25 found “numerous shortcomings” in the workers’ compensation program for state workers. The report, authored by Auditor General Bill Holland, identified several problems with the system and urged lawmakers to address them. The audit indicates that workers’ compensation claims are paid out too readily without proper documentation.

Between 2007 and 2010, the period covered by the report, more than $295 million was paid out to injured workers. More than 75% of all injuries were for sprains and contusions. The audit identified problems with the system including failure to review the performance of arbitrators tasked with awarding compensation to injured workers, failure to train arbitrators, and the lack of a procedure to address conflicts of interest of those entrusted with handling State employees’ workers’ compensation cases.

The proposed changes follow on the heels of legislation passed last year by the Illinois legislature that made extensive changes to the workers’ compensation program. That law put caps on certain awards, required that arbitrators be licensed attorneys, and implemented measures aimed at fraud prevention. However, Holland’s report found that not all the changes ordered by the law had been put in place.

Workers’ compensation advocates see the proposed changes as nothing more than legislative pandering to the interests of lobbyists and big business. The proposed bills, according to those fighting their passage, would serve only to eradicate the already diminished rights of injured workers.

Robert Briskman is a Chicago workers compensation attorney and Chicago workers compensation lawyer with Briskman Briskman & Greenberg. To learn more call 1.877.595.4878 or visit http://www.briskmanandbriskman.com/.

Plaintiff Must Prove Unsafe Conditions at Time of Fall

Getting awarded compensation for your slip and fall injury may hinge on whether you gather enough evidence of the property owner’s negligence.

A recent case decided by the Illinois Appellate Court shows that suits against landlords or building owners can be just as slippery as the floors on which the falls occur.

In the case of Ishoo v. General Growth Properties, the plaintiff suffered injuries when she slipped and fell in a shopping mall. She was an employee at one of the mall’s department stores.

The plaintiff claimed that the mall’s cleaning crew cleaned the escalators and there was cleaning solution remaining on the floor when she slipped and fell. Investigators found no evidence of slippery material on the floor where the woman fell and the trial and appellate courts ultimately sided with General Growth Properties.

In a premises liability case, such as the Ishoo case, the plaintiff is required to prove that the floor was slippery and that the defendant knew or should have known of the dangerous condition. In that case, the plaintiff could not even establish that the floor was slippery.

Careful record-keeping by the cleaning crew at the mall was used to show that meticulous safety precautions were followed, according to court records.

The court ruled in favor of the property owner and the victim was unable to get compensation. If you are involved in a slip and fall accident, do your best to record as much of the scene as possible. Take pictures and notes and get the names and phone numbers of any witnesses. While this may not be the first thing on your mind while your experiencing the pain from the accident, your ability to gather evidence from the scene could determine whether or not you receive fair compensation.

Contact a Chicago personal injury lawyer and Chicago personal injury attorney with Briskman Briskman & Greenberg. To learn more call 1.877.595.4878 or visit http://www.briskmanandbriskman.com/.

Study Links Environment and Genetics in Birth Injuries and Defects

For the first time in history, researchers are showing a link between genetic and environmental causes that lead to birth defects. It has been long assumed that most birth defects were the result of either genetic factors or environmental ones. This study shows that the two feed off of each other to increase the chances of a child being born with a congenital birth defect.

The study was conducted by a group of scientists in Australia from the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute (VCCRI), but there were other scientists across the globe involved in the research. The study aimed to show how nature and nurture interact in a pregnant mother to increase the risk of birth defects like heart, kidney and brain abnormalities, as well as anatomical abnormalities, such as limb and cranio-facial (cleft palate) deformations.

The research shows that hypoxia can combine with genetic risk factors to dramatically increase the chances that a baby would be born with congenital scoliosis, a spine malformation. Perinatal hypoxia is a period of low oxygen during pregnancy and is cited as a cause of birth injuries.

The study’s senior author, Sally Dunwoodie of the VCCRI and the University of New South Wales, believes the research brings the world closer to understanding how birth defects happen and potentially even how to stop them.

“This research is hugely exciting and will help us to genetically diagnose a whole range of birth defects, and give advice to women on how and when to avoid certain activities when pregnant,” Dunwoodie said through a press release. “We hope it will eventually lead to the development of therapeutics to stop these defects occurring in the first place.”

The research stops short of establishing which environmental and genetic factors may combine to lead to specific birth defects. However, the study underscores the importance of minimizing environmental risks in people who have underlying genetic issues.

“This study provides a new paradigm for the interaction between our genes and environment, and may account for a lot of diseases that we haven’t understood before, such as many different forms of congenital heart disease, and conditions like cleft palate,” said Bob Graham, the cardiac institutes executive director.

Researchers have been bold enough to say that this study could pave the way for expectant mothers and physicians to greatly reduce the number children born with birth defects, despite their genetic makeup.

Contact a Chicago birth injury lawyer and Chicago birth injury attorney with Briskman Briskman & Greenberg. To learn more call 1.877.595.4878 or visit http://www.briskmanandbriskman.com/.

Duerson Concussion Lawsuit Filed in Chicago Against NFL

The family of former Chicago Bears safety Dave Duerson has filed a lawsuit against the National Football League claiming that the NFL knew that multiple concussions were causing irreversible harm to players and did nothing about it.

Duerson took his own life in 2011 after a steep personal decline that included bankruptcies, assault charges and divorce. An autopsy of his brain showed significant damage from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE. The coroner was only able to do an autopsy on Duerson’s brain because he shot himself in the chest to protect his head for research.

The Duerson family’s suit has been filed in state court in Chicago. Many similar cases dealing with personal injuries caused by concussions have been consolidated into a federal case in Philadelphia.

Duerson was a smart, charismatic and successful businessman, a husband and a proud father of four. He was a trustee at the University of Notre Dame, his alma mater, and had been approached by both the Democratic and the Republican parties in about running for office.

His life changed dramatically around the time he turned 45. He lost his business and his marriage, and he became estranged from his children as his decision-making and his behavior became erratic.

That is about the same age that other NFL retirees who suffered concussions noticed their lives spinning out of control. Players like Larry Kaminski, who played for eight seasons with the Denver Broncos, described a personal deterioration, with increasing anger and depression issues. Kaminski described going to a “dark place,” to the Kitsap Sun in Washington State.

Duerson’s “dark place” likely caused him to attack a 75-year-old retired NFL player during a congressional hearing and ultimately to end his own life.

The Duersons claim in their lawsuit that the NFL engaged in a decades-long propaganda initiative to convince players that concussions do not lead to permanent brain damage. Medical evidence has stacked up on the side of the Duersons and others who want to hold the NFL accountable.

Contact a Chicago wrongful death attorney and Chicago personal injury attorney with Briskman Briskman & Greenberg. To learn more call 1.877.595.4878 or visit http://www.briskmanandbriskman.com/.

Transportation Bill Could Upgrade Rental Truck Safety Standards

A new U.S. Senate transportation bill includes a measure that will change safety rules for large truck rentals.

Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal introduced the amendment in part as a response to the November accident at the Harvard-Yale football game in New Haven, Conn., where one woman died and two others were injured when a man driving a U-Haul van ran into them at a tailgate party.

The bill requires the U.S. Department of Transportation to analyze accidents involving rental trucks. The analysis will not only cover fatality and injury statistics, but will evaluate local and state laws that regulate companies that rent trucks. The bill also directs the USDOT to assess maintenance programs at truck rental companies. It mandates that the transportation secretary recommend new rules based on his findings.

“Alarming reports of safety violations and, most recently, a tragic accident involving a rental truck in Connecticut, have raised serious concerns about the safety and reliability of rental trucks driven by millions of Americans each year,” Blumenthal wrote in a press release.

Rental vehicles are not regulated in the same way as commercial truck fleets and so they are not held to the same safety standards at the federal level, according to Blumenthal’s release. Rental trucks are often the same size and weight as the ones in commercial fleets and are operated by drivers with less experience and training.

“While I am pleased that the Senate adopted my provision demanding a closer look at accident data and safety requirements for rental trucks, I believe it underscores the larger importance of passing a bill that is so critical to the safety and integrity of our nation’s highways and transportation systems and those who travel on them each day,” Blumenthal continued in the release.

One of the women injured in the truck accident in Connecticut filed a personal injury lawsuit in the Superior Court of New Haven in April seeking to hold responsible either the driver of the truck or the company that rented the truck who was unsafe, according to the suit.

The man who drove the truck has not been charged with a crime and tested negative for alcohol at the scene.

Blumenthal’s provision in the transportation bill would be a first step towards bringing rental truck fleets up to the same safety standards as commercial truck fleets.

Contact a Chicago truck accident lawyer and Chicago truck accident attorney with Briskman Briskman & Greenberg. To learn more call 1.877.595.4878 or visit http://www.briskmanandbriskman.com/.

Family of Chicago Woman Killed by Police Officer Files Wrongful Death Lawsuit

The family of Rekia Boyd, a 22-year old woman who was shot and killed by an off-duty officer with the Chicago Police, has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city.

Boyd was shot in the head by a detective and died the next day from her injuries. Her family claims that the off-duty police detective had no reason to fire at Boyd, who was unarmed.

The detective, Dante Servin, said he lowered his window to investigate a disturbance in the neighborhood of Lawndale in Chicago. He said a man named Anthony Cross approached his car holding a handgun. Police said Cross pointed the handgun at Servin and the detective fired in self defense, hitting Boyd in the head and Cross in the hand.

According to the wrongful death lawsuit against the city, neither Boyd nor any of her companions that night were armed and Boyd herself posed no threat to the officer.

Servin, on the other hand, had a bad reputation in the neighborhood for being unnecessarily aggressive in dealing with the community’s residents, according to the suit.

Cross told WGN News that he was talking on his mobile phone and walking near the car when the officer began to fire out the window. Cross maintains he was unarmed and an Independent Police Review Authority investigation found no weapon at the scene. Cross told WGN it is unlikely that Servin thought his phone was a gun since he was holding it to his ear and talking.

Boyd’s family members have talked freely to media outlets about the suit. One of her brothers told a Huffington Post reporter that Servin also lives in the community and had been overheard speculating that he may have to shoot someone in order to command the respect he thought he was due in the neighborhood.

Family members and other witnesses also have been telling the media they believe Servin, who was off duty when the shooting occurred, may have been intoxicated at the time.

The review authority investigating the incident is led by Ilana Rosenzweig. Rosenzweig told the Huffington Post that the investigation is ongoing.

Contact a Chicago wrongful death attorney and Chicago wrongful death lawyer with Briskman Briskman & Greenberg. To learn more call 1.877.595.4878.

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The law firm of Briskman Briskman & Greenberg represents injured people throughout Illinois, including Chicago, the Chicagoland area, Joliet, Waukegan, Cicero, Evanston, Arlington Heights, Wheaton, Bolingbrook, and Naperville, as well as other cities within Cook County, Will County, DuPage County, Lake County and McHenry County. Briskman Briskman & Greenberg also represents injured people throughout Wisconsin, including Kenosha, Milwaukee, and Madison.
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