April 2012 Archives

Stricter State Seatbelt Laws May Lead to Fewer Auto Accident Injuries Sustained by Teens

April 25, 2012

Parents of teenage drivers may be relieved to learn that teen drivers and passengers are more likely to use seat belts if they're in states with primary-enforcement seat belt laws, often promoted as "click it or ticket" laws, a new study finds. This likely hood may also lead to a lessening of injuries sustained by teens in the unfortunate event that they are involved in an auto accident.

These seatbelt laws, which are sometimes referred to as "click it or ticket" laws may be implemented as either primary to secondary laws. A primary law allows police to stop and ticket drivers solely for not wearing a seat belt. Under a secondary law, police can only ticket unbelted drivers if they are stopped for other reasons, such as speeding.
Primary seat belt laws have been proven to reduce death rates in traffic collisions, according to the report published in the April 19th online edition of the American Journal of Public Health.

According to Healthday.com, in the new study, researchers examined data from more than 3,000 U.S. high school student drivers who took part in the 2006 National Young Driver Survey. The analysis revealed that teens in states with secondary laws were 12 percent less likely to wear a seat belt when driving and 15 percent less likely to do so as a passenger than teens in states with primary laws.

In addition, the investigators found that in states with secondary laws, teens' use of seat belts decreased as they progressed from learner to unrestricted license holder. This did not occur in states with primary laws. Thus, it appears that primary seatbelt laws are more effective in deterring teens from driving without seatbelts.

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Deadly Car Accidents Challenging Atlanta Officials to Increase Response Times

April 23, 2012

A car accident doesn't end when the vehicles involved cease to move. A car wreck, especially one with fatalities, can have far-reaching effects - on traffic, on witnesses, and most significantly on the families left behind. It can be a challenge determining exactly what happened, when it happened and who was involved. But oftentimes, another, different issue is added to the mix. Local officials in Atlanta, Georgia face a challenge of a different sort. In a city where traffic becomes snarled as soon as rush hour (a more accurate phrase would be "rush hours") hits, a car crash can cause significant and long-lasting damage. The response times of both police officers and medical officials are slowed by the already high volume of motor vehicles on the road, and the bystander delays that result when an accident occurs exacerbate the problem and increase the likelihood that emergency crews will be injured or secondary accidents will occur.

A checklist published by one state's transportation organization highlights the importance of quickly clearing an accident scene - and it is a checklist that appears to be fairly standard across the national board. In fact, the first three priorities include: 1.) Life safety and attending to the injured at the scene. 2.) Incident stabilization and minimizing any impact the incident may have on the surrounding area and 3.) Restoring traffic to normal and reopening the roads as soon as possible. In Atlanta, officials have already spent millions on various instruments and programs designed to increase the safety of clearing accident scenes and preventing delays. Yet even though the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority says instruments like digital signs, HERO units, and mounted cameras have cut response times, for some reason, as car accident attorneys in Atlanta are well aware, these things do not seem to be working as well as they could.

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New Senate Bill May Make Medical Malpractice Suits More Difficult to Prove

April 18, 2012

Hospital representatives and trial lawyers clashed Tuesday before the House Judiciary Committee over a bill that would give patients an alternative method for resolving medical malpractice claims. Senate Bill 406 was passed by a wide margin in the Senate last month. Now, both House and Senate leaders are eager to get the committee's endorsement and have the measure approved by the full House.

According to Union Leader.com, the bill would establish an "early offer" program in which a patient could voluntarily seek a settlement with a medical provider. The settlement would be based on medical costs and lost wages, plus a severity of injury payment ranging from $1,700 for minor harm to $117,500 for grave harm or death. Should both parties agree to participate in the process, the settlement would be reached in a matter of months.

If patients are dissatisfied with the medical provider's offer, they still could pursue a traditional lawsuit. Although allowing injured patients more than one way to seek justice and recovery may seem positive, it is not in this case. If a patient was dissatisfied with the offer, they indeed could proceed with a traditional lawsuit, but the case would be judged under the standards for gross negligence, which is much more difficult to prove than malpractice. Bill supporters say it would significantly reduce the expense and time of malpractice cases, which take, on average, nearly four years to reach resolution in New Hampshire. More broadly, they say the bill would help reduce medical costs.

As reported by the Union Leader.com, trial lawyers are staunchly against the bill, which they say favors insurers and hospitals. "The people who will end up using this system will be the poor, the uneducated and the uninformed," said Maureen Raiche Manning, the president of the New Hampshire Association for Justice, which represents trial lawyers.

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Failure of Pharmacists to Heed Computerized Drug Warnings May Lead to Medical Malpractice Lawsuits

April 11, 2012

After visiting our physicians, we trust our local pharmacist to accurately fill our prescriptions. In order to do so, most pharmacists rely on computerized warning systems which alert then if there are potentially dangerous effects or conflicts with the drugs that they are prescribing to a particular patient. However, a recently conducted study revealed that the vast majority of computerized drug warning alerts generated in hospitals are overridden, suggesting that these systems need refinement. Not only do the systems need refinement, but medical providers should be more alert, otherwise more and more patients will be put at risk, which will likely lead to those providers being held liable in medical malpractice lawsuits.

According to Medpagetoday.com, among 40,391 medication orders issued during a one-year period, only 4% were accepted, reported Amy Knight, MD, of Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center in Baltimore. Computerized provider order entry (CPOE) systems have been developed to generate warnings when there is the possibility of allergy, adverse events, interactions, and duplications, with the intent of increasing inpatient safety.

"However, the problem with these computerized warning systems is that providers develop 'alert fatigue' and end up overriding many potentially important warnings," Knight said at the annual meeting of the Society of Hospital Medicine.

These study results dovetail with research published this week, which found that medication alerts generated by an electronic medical record system were frequently frustrating to prescribers. For this retrospective study, Knight's group sought to clarify the factors associated with accepting or overriding a warning, with the goal of providing data for developers of these systems to improve their efficacy and utility.

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General Electric Found Liable for the Wrongful Death of Nine Firefighters

April 4, 2012

According to KDRV.com and Pantagraph.com an Oregon jury ruled Tuesday that a problem with an engine was responsible for the 2008 crash of a helicopter that killed nine firefighters during a wildfire in Northern California. The jury in Portland reached its verdict after a pilot who survived, along with the widow of one who was killed, sued General Electric for $177 million. In total, the jury determined that G.E. must pay nearly $70 million dollars in damages to the plaintiffs.

After a two-year investigation, the National Transportation Safety Board concluded in 2010 that too much weight and a lack of oversight caused the crash. The chopper was airborne less than a minute when it clipped a tree and fell from the sky, bursting into flames. Four people survived, including one of the pilots, William Coultas. The wrongful death lawsuit decided Tuesday was brought by Coultas, his wife and the estate of Schwanenberg, who died in the crash.

Along with pilot Schwanenberg, 54, of Lostine, those killed included Jim Ramage, 63, a U.S. Forest Service inspector pilot from Redding, Calif.; and firefighters Shawn Blazer, 30, of Medford; Scott Charlson, 25, of Phoenix, Ore.; Matthew Hammer, 23, of Grants Pass; Edrik Gomez, 19, of Ashland; Bryan Rich, 29, of Medford; David Steele, 19, of Ashland; and Steven "Caleb" Renno, 21, of Cave Junction. The families of eight men who were killed and three who were injured reached out-of-court settlements with three of five defendants in multiple lawsuits filed after the crash.

As reported by KDRV.com, during the trial, the plaintiffs argued the company knew the engines it made for the Sikorsky S-61N helicopter had a design flaw making the equipment unsafe, and thus were responsible for the wrongful death of the firefighters who lost their lives as a result of the crash. GE countered that the helicopter crashed because it was carrying too much weight when it took off after picking up a firefighting crew battling the Iron 44 wildfire in Shasta-Trinity National Forest near Weaverville, Calif.

"They're heroes," plaintiffs' attorney Greg Anderson said of the pilots, William Coultas and Roark Schwanenberg. "They saved as many people as they could. They have been pilloried before this."

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