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Mother of girl hit by bus sues Chicago Transit Authority

The mother of a child who was struck and killed by a city bus on Memorial Day has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Chicago Transit Authority.

The lawsuit was filed in Cook County Circuit Court by La’Tasha Upshaw. Her daughter was 19 months old when she died.

The lawsuit alleges that the driver was careless. The No. 6 Jackson Park Express bus hit the girl as she crossed South Shore Drive on May 26.

According to authorities, the girl had run into the street when the bus driver saw her. The driver attempted to swerve to avoid hitting the child but was not able to do so in time.

At a vigil held for the girl the day after the accident, Upshaw told reporters that she had left her daughter with neighbors while she retrieved the child’s bicycle.

Witnesses said that the girl was pinned under the bus. According to the medical examiner, she was pronounced dead at University of Chicago Comer Children’s Hospital.

The lawsuit alleges that the driver failed to maintain proper speed and did not properly swerve to avoid hitting the child. The lawsuit seeks at least $50,000 in damages, including reimbursement for medical and funeral expenses.

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How brain injuries occur during birth

Injuries to a baby’s brain can occur during or shortly after labor and delivery, as a result of three main categories of cause: reduced oxygen, reduced glucose and trauma.

A baby in the womb gets its oxygen from its mother, as the mother’s oxygenated blood flows across the placenta and through the umbilical cord. If this flow of oxygen is interrupted during the labor and delivery process, serious birth injuries can occur. This can be caused by a rupture of the uterus, umbilical cord compression or premature abruption of the placenta. If the medical professionals attending the birth fail to deal with such complications immediately, the infant’s brain may be damaged.

A lengthy or difficult labor can reduce the amount of glucose in the baby’s blood. It is important for a baby’s glucose levels to be checked immediately after birth. Failure to correct low glucose levels promptly is a common cause of injury to an infant’s brain.

Trauma during labor and delivery can also cause injuries to a baby’s brain. Improper use of forceps or vacuum extractors can cause damage to the brain through cerebral contusions, cerebral bleeding and the tearing and stretching of brain tissue and blood vessels.

If your child suffered a birth injury, contact Briskman Briskman & Greenberg for a free consultation.

Research suggests under-reported birth injury

Research suggests that Chiari malformation may be an under-reported birth injury.

Chiari malformations are structural problems in the cerebellum, the area of the brain that maintains balance. The cerebellum normally sits above the foramen magnum with parts of the brain stem. The foramen magnum is in the lower back portion of the skull and leads to the spinal canal. 

In a Chiari malformation, part of the cerebellum develops beneath the foramen magnum. This causes pressure on the brain stem and cerebellum, which may affect the brain adversely and prevent cerebrospinal fluid from flowing properly to the brain.

Symptoms of Chiari malformation may include neck pain, numbness, dizziness, vision problems, buzzing or ringing in the ears, nausea, insomnia, depression and headaches. Individuals with Chiari malformations often have related conditions such as hydrocephalus, spina bifida, syringomyelia, tethered cord syndrome or spinal curvature.

Chiari malformations were once believed to occur in approximately one in every 1,000 births, but research suggests that it may be much more common than previously thought. A complication in diagnosing the condition is that individuals may be asymptomatic until adolescence or adulthood.

Chiari malformations that happen during the development of a fetus can be caused by medical malpractice — including a doctor’s failure to warn a pregnant mother of the dangers of taking certain medications during pregnancy.

Appellate court rules: employer must pay medical expenses in workers’ compensation case

The Appellate Court of Illinois recently decided an important workers’ compensation case. The court denied an employer’s request for a rehearing in a case concerning the issue of whether the company’s intent was to stipulate to payment of certain rates for the medical treatment expenses of an employee. 

The court upheld the award of benefits to the worker and ordered the Workers’ Compensation Commission to reconsider the worker’s reimbursement request for his home modifications.

The claimant, Jeffrey Berman, was employed as a food-service manager by Compass Group. He injured his back on March 19, 2009 while picking up a 40-pound box of bottled soda. A subsequent fall led to extensive complications that required hospitalization. The claimant was awarded benefits, and the employer stipulated to a fee schedule for payments for medical expenses.

In legal settings, “stipulation” refers to an agreement between the attorneys on either side of the case about certain facts and issues. The agreements are voluntary, and they are usually intended to save time in courtroom disputes. In this case, the two sides stipulated to issues concerning the company’s obligations to its employee.

On appeal, Compass Group argued that the medical expenses should have been based on a negotiated rate rather than a fee schedule. However, the court ruled that the fee schedule must stand, because the company had entered into a stipulation agreeing to it.

The claimant also cross-appealed, arguing that it was improper for the Commission to reject his claim for reimbursement for home modifications that he undertook himself based on the recommendation of a physical therapist. The Commission rejected his claim because the modifications were not recommended by a doctor. The court ruled, though, that the recommendation of a doctor is not always required, and remanded the case for further proceedings on that issue.

Illinois sees decrease in medical malpractice payouts

In 2013, Medical Malpractice payouts decreased in Illinois, according to research from a medical malpractice insurer.

Diedrich Healthcare performed an analysis of 2013 medical malpractice payments that were recorded by the National Practitioner Data Bank. The insurer found that medical malpractice payouts in Illinois decreased by $28 million from 2012 to 2013.

The insurer also found that 2013 was the first year since 2003 that medical malpractice payments increased nationwide. National payouts increased by $168 million, a figure 4.7 percent greater than 2012′s.

The greatest state decrease in payouts was seen in New York, with a $73 million drop. In Massachusetts, there was a drop of $7 million; in Florida, a decrease of $4 million; and in Mississippi, a drop of $3 million. The largest increase in medical malpractice payouts occurred in California, which saw a $51 million uptick.

On a national basis, 96 percent of the payouts were represented by settlements. In cases that went to judgment, the average payment amount decreased by more than $200,000.

Diedrich Healthcare also analyzed malpractice payouts according to the type of allegation. The insurer found that in 33 percent of payouts, the allegation was related to diagnosis. Twenty-three percent involved surgery, 18 percent involved treatment and 10 percent concerned obstetrics. Allegations related to medication, anesthesia, monitoring, equipment and other causes accounted for five percent or less of the total.

Ten million settlement follows trooper’s death

A $10.9 million settlement was reached in a wrongful death lawsuit over the death of an Illinois state trooper. The trooper was struck and killed by a truck driver who allegedly fell asleep while driving.

Elizabeth Sauter, Trooper James Sauter’s widow, filed the lawsuit against the truck driver and the companies he was working for at the time of the March 2013 accident.

The driver was also criminally charged in Cook County for violating federal hours-of-service regulations. According to prosecutors, he dozed off on the Tri-State Tollway on March 28, striking the trooper after working a 12-hour shift.

Records from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration show that the driver and United Van Lines were fined $2,500 and $5,500, respectively, for violating a federal regulation prohibiting a driver from being on duty over 14 hours without taking 10 hours of rest time.

Judge Kathy M. Flanagan of Cook County Circuit Court approved the settlement after the parties reached an agreement in pre-trial mediation.

According to allegations in the lawsuit, Sauter’s squad car was parked on the left shoulder of Interstate 294. The truck driver was driving a semitrailer in the left lane when he fell asleep. The semi veered off the road, crashing into Sauter’s vehicle, the lawsuit alleged. According to court records, the truck driver worked from 6:31 a.m. to 6:32 p.m. that day loading the truck, then drove from 7:14 p.m. to 7:34 p.m., and again from 8:49 p.m. until the time of the crash at 11:03 p.m.

Illinois workers’ compensation medical fee schedule under scrutiny

In 2011, an across-the-board 30 percent cut was implemented in medical fee schedules for the Illinois workers’ compensation system. Some observers say that medical fees in the workers’ compensation system are now so low that doctors and other medical professionals may be reluctant to treat injured workers.

Doctors report that workers’ compensation payments are now lower than Medicare rates, which has an impact on access to medical care.

A study by the Workers Compensation Research Institute, a think tank funded by the insurance industry, found that prices for surgeries in the workers’ comp system remain high, while the cost of office visits may be too low.

The report claimed that if workers’ compensation prices are set below prices paid by group health insurers or Medicare, then injured workers may not have access to care. However, if prices are set higher than for other payors, then they could be lowered without affecting access to care.

The report also compared prices paid for nonhospital professional medical services and for group health prices and Medicare rates after the 2011 fee reduction. A significant difference between surgery costs and office visits was found.

The average workers’ compensation office visit cost for a condition of low or moderate severity was $62, $14 less than the estimated group health care plan price and $11 below the Medicare rate. Researchers said that policymakers should consider whether the lowered fee schedule may impair access to care.

Illinois sees decrease in malpractice payouts and Drunk drivers get a second chance – Podcast

Diedrich Healthcare performed an analysis of 2013 medical malpractice payments that were recorded by the National Practitioner Data Bank. The insurer found that medical malpractice payouts in Illinois decreased by $28 million from 2012 to 2013. Plus, a new bill is introduced to give drunk drivers a second chance on this month’s Chicago Injury Alert.

Chicago jury awards fourteen million dollars in medical malpractice lawsuit

A Chicago jury recently awarded $14 million to the plaintiff in a medical malpractice lawsuit.

The plaintiff, Mariola Zapalski, was prescribed the birth control drug Yasmin. After taking the medication for 13 days, she suffered a stroke that resulted in a permanent brain injury and the paralysis of her left side. She now requires around-the-clock care.

The lawsuit alleged that Zapalski’s doctor should not have prescribed the medication to her because she had underlying risk factors. According to the lawsuit, her doctor also failed to warn her of the risks associated with the medication. A lawsuit against the medical center that provided Zapalski with the referral to her doctor was settled for $2.5 million, according to reports.

Yasmin contains drospirenone, which is a synthetic progestin that has been linked to an increased risk of stroke and blood clots. The Food and Drug Administration issued a warning in 2011 stating that birth control drugs containing drospirenone may carry a greater risk of blood clots than other types of birth control. Preliminary results from an FDA study suggested that the risk of blood clots is 1.5 times greater. However, Yasmin and other drugs containing drospirenone are still on the market. Bayer, the manufacturer of Yasmin, has settled other lawsuits over the drug.

Wrongful death lawsuit filed over drowning death after swan attack

The wife of a Villa Park man who died after being attacked by a swan has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the man’s employer and against the condo complex where he was working when he died.

According to the lawsuit, Anthony Hensley had responsibility over two swans in the Bay Colony condo complex in Des Plaines. The condo complex used the swans to keep geese away. Hensley was employed by Knox Swan and Dog, the company that provided the swans to the complex.

Two years ago, one of the swans knocked Hensley out of his kayak. Hensley, wearing boots and heavy clothing, attempted to swim for shore but drowned. Witnesses said the swan continued to swim toward the man after he fell out of the kayak. He was pronounced dead at Lutheran General Hospital. Hensley was 37 and the father of two children.

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, the death was found to be an accidental drowning after an autopsy. Officials said that Hensley may have gotten too close to the swans’ nesting area, sparking the attack. According to Hensley’s father, he was a strong swimmer.

In the lawsuit, Hensley’s wife claims that the condo complex and his employer should have known that swans are territorial and are prone to attack humans.

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