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New Illinois law allows workers to sue third-party service organizations

On June 5, 2014, Senate Bill 3287 passed both houses of the Illinois legislature and was signed into law by Governor Quinn, becoming Public Act 98-33. The law eliminates immunity for third-party maintenance or service corporations from third-party lawsuits under the exclusive remedy provisions of the Workers’ Compensation Act. 

The law went into effect immediately.

The new law was passed in response to a recent appellate court decision. In Brenda Mockbee v. Humphrey Manlift Co. Inc., the First District Appellate Court ruled that a worker who was left paraplegic after a work accident could not file a lawsuit against safety consultants who were hired by her employer, Quaker Oats.

The new law allows injured workers like Mockbee to file a civil lawsuit against a negligent third-party maintenance company hired by an employer. Independent maintenance organizations that provide independent services to an employer are thus subject to liability in court, while a service company that is wholly owned by the employer or wholly owned by the employer’s broker or insurer are still protected from civil lawsuits under the exclusive remedy provisions.

The new law “reaffirmed 45 years of legal precedent,” according to Stephen D. Phillips, president of the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association. The law does not increase workers’ compensation benefits paid by the employer.

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Infection rates in Iillinois hospitals may bring Medicare penalties

This fall, Medicare payments may be docked for six or more Illinois hospitals as the government cracks down on infections and other injuries to patients.

Northwestern Memorial Hospital, which has one of the highest rates of hospital-acquired medical conditions in the state, is on the list.

Beginning in October, annual penalties for Northwestern and five or more other hospitals in the state could amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The penalties are assessed at the rate of one percent of all Medicare payments per year and are intended to provide an incentive for hospitals to improve the care of their patients. Infections and other injuries acquired at hospitals are a major public health concern, and they cost the federal government and taxpayers money for additional treatment. 

When a patient injury is the result of negligence on the part of medical personnel, a medical malpractice lawsuit may also be filed.

In April, the federal government released a preliminary national list of 761 institutions that may be assessed, although that list may now change as further data is taken into account. The list includes 26 of Illinois’ 125 hospitals. A smaller list of six includes the institutions most likely to face penalties, which rank in the bottom 10 percent on a national basis in infection rates and avoidable safety problems. Northwestern is the only Chicago-area hospital included in the list of six.

Labor trauma can cause birth injuries

A number of birth injuries can result from trauma experienced during the labor and delivery process. Said trauma can result from mistakes on the part of medical professionals attending the birth.

Head trauma suffered during delivery can cause several different types of birth injuries, including cephalohematoma, caput succedaneum and epidural hemorrhage.

Cerebral palsy, a disability of the central nervous system, can result if the baby’s brain lacks oxygen during the labor and delivery process.

Perinatal asphyxia can also appear when a baby is deprived of oxygen. That deprivation can be caused by interference with blood flow to the baby’s brain or a drop in maternal blood pressure.

Erb’s Palsy is a paralysis of the arm resulting from an injury to a group of nerves in the arm. This condition can occur if the baby’s head and neck are pulled excessively during delivery.

Brachial plexus injuries can be caused by shoulder trauma, inflammation or tumors, and they may occur if the baby’s shoulder is stretched during birth.

A leading cause of severe illness and even death in newborns is meconium aspiration syndrome. If a fetus is stressed during delivery and inhales a mixture of meconium and amniotic fluid into its lungs, severe injury can result.

Each of these birth injuries may be caused by the mistakes of doctors and other medical personnel. An unnecessary injury may constitute medical malpractice. If your child suffered a birth injury due to a medical error, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact Briskman Briskman & Greenberg to learn more about your legal rights.

Wrongful death lawsuits filed against DCFS by families of two deceased girls

Wrongful death lawsuits have been filed against the state Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) by the families of two deceased girls, accusing the agency of ignoring indications that the children had been placed in abusive households with other relatives.

One lawsuit was filed July 11 in Cook County Circuit Court by the mother and the maternal grandfather of Gizzell Ford, who was eight years old when she died in July 2013. Prosecutors said Ford had been tortured in a West Side home that was strewn with garbage. The other wrongful death suit was filed April 30 in federal court by the paternal grandfather of Gina Presley, who died at the age of three in her aunt’s Oak Forest home.

Investigations by the Chicago Sun-Times and WBEZ found an increasing number of children dying while being monitored or investigated by DCFS.

The lawsuit by James Fountas, Gina’s paternal grandfather, claims that her maternal grandfather contacted the Oak Forest Police Department and DCFS multiple times to warn them that Gina was being abused by the live-in boyfriend of her legal guardian. Despite the warnings, the lawsuit claims DCFS took no meaningful steps to protect Gina. Authorities concluded that Gina died of blunt force trauma due to child abuse.

In Gizzell’s case, the lawsuit over her death claims that DCFS had access to signs that the girl was being physically abused, but did not protect her.

Appellate court rules worker’s injury in fall compensable

The Appellate Court of Illinois reversed the judgment of a trial court in a workers’ compensation case, ruling that the worker’s injury in a fall was compensable.

The claimant, Jane R. Brais, suffered an injury to her wrist when she tripped on a faulty sidewalk outside the Kankakee County courthouse, where she worked in the circuit clerk’s office. The trial court affirmed the arbitrator’s decision to deny benefits because the injury did not arise out of the worker’s employment. However, the appeals court reversed and remanded the cause case to the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission.

The appeals court found that the claimant was required to attend a meeting at a nearby building and was returning to work through the only entrance that was open at the time. The court found that the cracked sidewalk was a contributing cause of the worker’s injury and that it was a special hazard. The court also said that using the cracked sidewalk was a hazard that was part of the worker’s employment; even though the public also used the sidewalk, the employee was exposed to a greater risk than the public because of the demands of her work. The court said that the only reasonable inference based on the evidence was that the worker’s injuries arose out of her employment.

Up to 12 million adults could be affected by misdiagnosis

A new study in BMJ Quality and Safety, an international journal of healthcare improvement, estimated that one in 20 adults in the United States could be misdiagnosed in outpatient visits. The study found that approximately half of those mistakes could cause the patient harm.

The researchers set the definition of misdiagnosis as a missed opportunity to make a correct or timely diagnosis based on the evidence available. A misdiagnosis may be an instance of a physician making an incorrect diagnosis, or it may be a case of a delay in diagnosis. The researchers performed an analysis of data from three previous studies of outpatients in the United States, with the goal of estimating the frequency of misdiagnoses.

Researchers examined data on lung cancer misdiagnoses, delays in colon and prostate cancer diagnoses, and diagnostic mistakes in the primary care setting. The authors of the study said that diagnostic errors are often multifaceted, and that factors such as unclear clinical guidelines, cognitive biases and the structure of outpatient systems may play a part in misdiagnoses.

The researchers also said that misdiagnoses are underreported, which is a problem in itself. In the period between 1986 and 2010, payouts for medical malpractice claims due to misdiagnoses amounted to $38.8 billion. Diagnostic mistakes accounted for the largest percentage of malpractice payouts.

Car Accident Injury Settlements Increase with an Attorney – Podcast

Research indicates that auto accident injury victims who hire attorneys receive larger settlement payments. Plus, the Illinois Appellate Court ruled that school districts my not be shielded from liability under the Tort Immunity Act on this month’s Chicago Injury Alert.

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.

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.

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The Chicago Illinois personal injury 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.
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