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Chicago Drivers Who Ignore Crosswalks Face Penalties

Chicago police have begun a series of traffic enforcement stings intended to help prevent accidents involving pedestrians in crosswalks.

Many Chicago drivers are unaware that they are required to stop their cars when they encounter pedestrians in marked crosswalks, even when they are crossing the street midblock. Indeed, many Chicago drivers fail to yield, much less stop, for pedestrians in crosswalks. But police and traffic officials are attempting to change that with increased enforcement and improvements to streets and signage.

Each year in Chicago, there are about 3,000 accidents involving a vehicle striking a pedestrian and about 30 lives lost. To try to reduce these numbers, police are planning about 60 pedestrian traffic safety enforcement stings this year, in which undercover police officers will traverse crosswalks on foot and issue citations to drivers who fail to stop for them. 

Police issued one citation after another during a recent sting, even though signs warned motorists about the special enforcement action.

Since a state law was passed in 2010, motorists must stop for pedestrians in crosswalks. Prior to that, they were only required to yield and, if necessary, stop. Violators face a possible fine of $120 in Chicago, and up to $500 in some other jurisdictions. More than 1,200 such tickets were issued by Chicago police in 2013, according to a report in the Chicago Tribune.

Some streets have also been outfitted with pedestrian refuge islands midway through the crosswalk, so that people who do not have time to walk all the way across a wide street before the light changes can wait safely in the median. Street-level signs that read “stop for pedestrians” have also been installed. City officials say their goal is to cut serious pedestrian injuries in half in five years, and to eliminate them entirely in ten years.

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Cerebral palsy among the most serious birth injuries

Cerebral palsy is one of the most serious injuries that can be caused by medical malpractice during labor or delivery. The condition can be caused by a deficiency of oxygen to the child’s brain, and the effects can last a lifetime.

Cerebral palsy includes a number of different neurological disorders that have a negative effect on muscle coordination and the movement of the body. Although most children who suffer from cerebral palsy have had the condition since birth, the condition may not be able to be diagnosed until the child is a few years old. In the United States and Europe, cerebral palsy occurs in between two and four out of every 1,000 births.

There are a number of different events that can lead to cerebral palsy, often involving a lack of oxygen to the brain, birth trauma or premature delivery. In some cases, action or inaction by medical personnel may constitute medical malpractice. 

Malpractice may include the failure to properly monitor the heart rate of the fetus, failure to detect infections in the mother such as meningitis, failure to detect a prolapse of the umbilical cord, delay in performing a cesarean section, or negligence in the use of instruments such as forceps or vacuum.

It is important to note that not all cases of cerebral palsy are the result of medical malpractice. If you believe that your child’s birth injury may have resulted from a medical mistake, it is important to speak with an attorney as soon as possible to learn more about your rights.

Age Restriction in Park Not a Liability Shield

The Chicago Park District must do more to publicize playground age restrictions if it wants them to be the basis of legal immunity, a state appeals panel has ruled.

The First District Appellate Court, in an unpublished order decision by Justice Robert E. Gordon, found that signs must be posted at the park and that any ordinances restricting the age of users of playground equipment must be published in order for the park district to claim immunity.

The case, Artenia Bowman v. Chicago Park District, involved a 13-year-old girl who fractured her ankle on a slide with a hole in it, which the park district claimed was intended for children under 12. In July 2011, the child’s mother filed a complaint in Cook County Circuit Court seeking recovery of medical expenses. Bowman alleged that the park district had received several complaints about the broken slide and had failed to fix it.

The park district raised an affirmative defense, arguing that the girl was in violation of an ordinance restricting the use of playgrounds for younger children to those between ages 5 and 12. Whether or not there was a sign indicating the age restriction on the day the girl was injured remained in question, but the trial court granted summary judgment to the park district in June 2013.

On appeal, Judge Gordon wrote that there was no evidence that the park district took measures to enforce the age restrictions, and that there was no way for a child to know that such a restriction existed.

Paul Greenberg of Briskman Briskman & Greenberg represented Bowman. Greenberg noted that while the ordinance in question refers to park equipment intended for use by younger children, it does not specify which equipment or locations are age-restricted. Greenberg said that the ruling is important because the park district will now have to publicize the ordinance and/or post signs if it wants to restrict playground users to certain age groups.

Personal injury claim not barred by workers’ compensation exclusivity, Illinois Appellate Court rules

An Illinois Appellate Court recently ruled that a worker who allegedly sustained exposure to asbestos while working for his employer between 1966 and 1970 was not barred from pursuing a personal injury claim by the exclusive remedy provisions of the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act. The claim was not compensable under the Act, as the statute of repose had expired.

In the case of Folta v. Ferro Engineering, James Folta allegedly sustained exposure to asbestos while working for the defendant, his employer, in the time period between 1966 and 1970. Forty-one years later, on May 17, 2011, he was diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma. 

Generally, the no-fault compensation provided under the Workers’ Compensation Act is the exclusive remedy for workers whose injuries arise out of and in the course of their employment. However, a statute of repose limits asbestos claims under the Act to a 25-year period from the time the employee was exposed. Another statute of repose limits claims under the Illinois Workers’ Occupational Diseases Act to a three-year period.

The First District Appellate Court ruled that because the plaintiff’s workers’ compensation claim was time-barred, his injury was “not compensable under the Act,” and he could therefore pursue a civil lawsuit against his employer.

Many misdiagnosis errors go unreported

Medical errors involving surgery or drug mistakes receive a lot of attention, perhaps in part because it is often obvious that an error has been made. But research indicates that misdiagnosis may be a far more common type of medical mistake.

Experts in patient safety say that misdiagnosis, which can include delayed, missed or incorrect diagnoses, may affect between 10 and 20 percent of all cases.

Medical errors that harm patients and are the result of negligence on the part of doctors or hospital personnel may give rise to medical malpractice lawsuits. However, in the vast majority of misdiagnosis cases, lawsuits are not filed. In many cases, patients are not aware that an error was made because the misdiagnosis is never reported.

A report by Daniel R. Levinson, the inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services, found that only one in seven mistakes or injuries involving Medicare patients are actually reported by hospital staff, even though reporting events that cause patients harm is a requirement of receiving Medicare payments.

Patients who suspect a misdiagnosis caused or worsened an injury should consult with a medical malpractice attorney to determine whether a lawsuit is appropriate to recover compensation for the harm they suffered.

Father of Illinois woman who died from gunshot wound files wrongful death lawsuit

The father of an Illinois woman who died from a gunshot wound has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the woman’s ex-boyfriend.

Larry Young, the father of Molly Young, filed the lawsuit against Richie Minton on June 30 in Jackson County Circuit Court.

Young died from a gunshot wound to the head in March 2012 in Minton’s Carbondale apartment. On January 31, 2013, a coroner’s jury found the cause of Young’s death to be undeterminable because of a lack of evidence. Details regarding the Illinois State Police investigation were made public as part of the inquest.

Carbondale police and emergency medical technicians responded to a call at the apartment at about 9:00 a.m. on March 24, 2012. Because Minton was then employed as a Carbondale police dispatcher, the investigation was handed over to Illinois State Police.

As part of the inquest, a state police special agent testified that Young’s text messages and journal entries referred to a wish to end her own life, saying that she would “shoot [herself] in the head.”

Other evidence may have kept jurors from ruling the death a suicide. No fingerprints were found on the gun. Young was shot in the left side of her head, though she was right-handed. A crime scene investigator said that the body had been moved.

A Frightening Look at Medical Malpractice – Podcast

On this month’s Chicago Injury Alert, we talk about scary statistics regarding medical malpractice.

Over 14 million dollars awarded in birth injury lawsuit

An Ohio jury has awarded $14.5 million to a boy who suffered a birth injury.

The jury returned the verdict against a hospital and doctor in favor of the 11-year-old boy and his mother, Stephanie Stewart. The child suffered a brain hemorrhage after a delay in his delivery, and he now suffers from cognitive delays, cerebral palsy, visual impairments and other medical conditions. The family’s attorney said that he will require lifelong care.

The lawsuit was first filed in 2004, but it was dismissed without prejudice in 2006 due to personnel issues with the law firm handling the case. The case was refiled in June 2011.

When Stewart was pregnant in 2003, she went into labor prematurely and was admitted to the hospital on three occasions, where the labor was stopped with medication, her attorney said. Stewart’s water broke on April 10, and she was admitted to the hospital again. A cesarean section had previously been discussed, and Stewart requested that her baby be delivered soon after she was admitted. But the delivery was delayed for several hours, according to her attorney. When the baby showed signs of distress, an emergency cesarean section was performed. By then, the infant had suffered a massive brain hemorrhage.

The jury determined that medical negligence had occurred, and awarded $8 million for future care, $5 million for pain and suffering, $1 million for the cost of Stewart’s services and $500,000 for economic losses.

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.

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.

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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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