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MedPay in Maryland Slip-and-Fall Claims

Watch your Step signMaryland slip-and-fall claims are hard.  Perhaps they are hard in most jurisdictions, but in Maryland (and a few of our neighbors), they are especially hard.  We have a rule of contributory negligence here, which means that if the victim is even 1% (even 0.00001%) negligent, he is not permitted to recover anything.  Other states have rules based on comparative negligence–in those states, a plaintiff who is 10% negligent might still be able to recover 90% of his damages (the comparative rule has a few varieties).

So, in Maryland, when it is so tough to win on slip-and-fall cases, it is important to find out if the property owner has a policy of MedPay (shorthand for “medical payments” coverage).  MedPay is basically Personal Injury Protection (PIP) for fall cases.  It is there to pay for injuries regardless of fault.  It doesn’t matter if the victim was simply a victim of his own untied shoes–if he falls, hurts himself, and incurs medical expenses or lost wages, the MedPay policy may help.  Sometimes, MedPay policies help to the tune of $1,000.00.  I’ve even seen $5,000.00 MedPay policies.

Like PIP, though, these policies sometimes require the victim to make a claim within 1 year of the date of the accident.  Failure to submit an application within that time means that the victim could lose out on those payments.  It’s important not to miss, particularly because Maryland is a collateral source state, meaning that the victim can recover PIP money, and can recover for those expenses again from the negligent property owner–it’s like recovering twice.  For those people who think that is unjust, I usually tell them that it makes up for the fact that many Maryland slip-and-fall victims must pay attorneys’ fees, so they are not really getting what they deserve, anyway.

So, particularly if you are trying to handle your own claim–be sure to inquire immediately if the property owner has a policy of MedPay.  It can help to provide near-immediate help when you’ve been injured.

Are Midwives Too Risky?

Mercy LogoMercy Medical Center in Baltimore City thinks so.  Mercy is an institution in Baltimore, having been around since just after the Civil War.  In 2011, Mercy delivered 2,866 babies.  Until now, they have worked with the midwife group of Kathleen Slone CNM & Associates, which provided midwife services in the hospital.  A midwife, in case you don’t know, is a person who is trained to assist in deliveries who is not a doctor.  They often provide other services in and around the pregnancy period, but it is at this point considered by many to be an alternative form of medical care.  Many women seek midwives so that they can have more control over the labor and delivery process, and so that they can have a more natural process.  Midwives may deliver babies at home, in a birth center, or at a hospital.

Mercy says that they are cutting ties with the group (and not seeking other midwife arrangements) because of the high costs of medical malpractice litigation.  Reportedly, two recent Maryland cases, involving midwives not involved in Mercy, have caused insurance premiums to go up.  This ignores the fact that one of those verdicts was recently overturned, and is on appeal.  Of course, obstetrics in general is risky, and has high insurance premiums, but the hospital isn’t cutting out its entire obstetrics department.  The relationship is expected to formally end by February of 2014.

The Slone group delivered 236 babies in 2012–each one of them at Mercy.  Certainly, delivery of babies by midwives at a hospital is among the safest way to go–the midwives have easy access to obstetricians and important technological advances, should they choose and need to use them.  They state that they only perform low-risk deliveries.  A quick check of the Maryland Judiciary website indicates that none of the Slone group’s midwives have been sued for malpractice in Maryland courts, and they are probably good midwives.  One of the large risks in midwife practice is the acceptance of expectant mothers who have had a prior cesarean section–these VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean) patients are often considered high risk because of the chance that the old scar will rupture, placental abruption, and other potential complications.

Like anything else medically-related, there are risks that patients and health care providers must consider.  The key in birth injury lawsuits is that the health care provider must act in accordance with the standard of care, which is determined at trial by experts of the same specialty–often obstetricians and other midwives.  If a child is in danger, the parents must be provided with enough information to make a good decision about the next course of action.  Certainly, medical providers must use good judgment in deciding whether they are qualified to accept patients from the beginning of a relationship.

You can expect that this will prompt outcries about the high costs of medical malpractice–but those outcries will be based on evil lawyers and greedy patients and frivolous lawsuits.  The reality, though, is that insurance premiums for medical malpractice increase because the insurance companies want to make more money.  Maryland is not typically a great place for lawyers to even file medical malpractice lawsuits–we have a strict cap on non-economic damages, and these cases are difficult to win even under the best of circumstances.

The real question is this:  if you or a loved one is hurt by a negligent doctor–would you give up a right to file a lawsuit in order that the doctor would have lower insurance premiums?

See the Baltimore Sun article for more information.

Robotic Surgery Malpractice: da Vinci Surgical System

da Vinci Surgical SystemThere is a new type of medical malpractice case that has started to hit the courts.  Due to the recent upswing in robotic-assisted surgery, we are seeing more and more lawsuits over serious injuries caused by da Vinci robotic surgeries.  The da Vinci is a futuristic piece of technology that some hospitals are pushing on their doctors.  The manufacturer, Intuitive Surgical, touts the device as a surgical tool for smaller incisions and quicker recovery times.  Unfortunately, there are problems.

The first problem is the technology itself.  Evidence collected so far indicates that there may be problems with the design or manufacture of the robot.  During some surgeries, patients have been seriously burned by electrical current that jumped from the machine to the patient.  In one case, a young woman who was scheduled for what should have been a routine hysterectomy had burns to her intestines and an artery, and she died within two weeks of the surgery.  Other cases have seen broken surgical blades.

The second problem is training–this is a sophisticated piece of equipment.  To doctors using it, it may feel like a video game, but the equipment and software are complex.  This is not like learning to pass eight levels of Super Mario Bros.  Hospitals are anxious for their doctors to use the equipment so that they can advertise their cutting-edge technological expertise.  The manufacturer provides a small degree of training, but in light of the number of mistakes made by doctors during surgery, that training is clearly insufficient.

da Vinci Surgical System 3The da Vinci is used for any number of surgeries–most often hysterectomies, bladder surgeries and throat surgeries.  Though cases are being filed, these are untested waters.  Lawyers and clients must decide whether to bring a product defect case against the manufacturer (for failure to warn, design defect, or manufacturing defect), or a medical malpractice case against the surgeon or hospital, or both.  Expert testimony in each type of case (product liability and medical malpractice) is extensive.  To do both at the same will require experts in the underlying surgery, and perhaps others like computer programmers,software engineers and mechanical engineers.

Nursing Home Malpractice: Pressure Sores

Baltimore Nursing home negligenceIt’s clear to everyone that pressure ulcers, also known as bed sores, are painful, dangerous and can even be deadly.  These are the most common type of nursing home and assisted living negligence case.  Frequently, patients who are immobile (whether because of physical or mental injuries), are allowed to sit or stay in one position for too long.  If the body doesn’t move regularly, blood doesn’t flow properly, and injuries develop to the skin surface.  Left untreated, those minor injuries grow and deepen, sometimes becoming infected down to the bone and causing necrotic tissue.  

It is likely impossible to completely prevent bedsores.  The negligence in nursing home cases is typically focused on failure to identify and treat pressure ulcers before they get to a dangerous point.  Without proper treatment, patients must be hospitalized and undergo painful cleaning and tissue removal.  In the worst cases, patients die because of infection.  

The Journal of the American Geriatrics Society reports in its September 2012 issue (Hospital-Acquired Pressure Ulcers: Results from the National Medicare Patient Safety Monitoring System Study) that they have found a correlation between bedsores and patient mortality.  Evaluating 51,000 Medicare patients from 2006 and 2007, the authors discovered that hospital patients who develop bedsores are more likely to die, to be readmitted to the hospital within 30 days, and to have longer hospital stays.  The key, of course, is prevention and early treatment.  Evaluating patients who had bedsores, they found that the most common locations are the tailbone or sacrum, followed by the hip, buttocks and heels.

How to Prevent and Identify Bedsores

  • Bedridden patients should be checked from head-to-toe every day
  • Particular care should be taken to check the tailbone, hip, buttocks and heels
  • Patients should change position at least every two hours
  • Proper nutrition should be followed (it helps to prevent pressure ulcers in nursing homes and hospitals)
  • Skin should be clean and dry, particularly for those patients who are incontinent

Contact a Baltimore Nursing Home Lawyer

If you or a loved one has developed pressure ulcers in a hospital stay or at a nursing home, contact our nursing home abuse lawyers at 443.850.4426, or send an online confidential request for information.  We can order your medical records, have them reviewed by an expert, and determine whether you have a nursing home lawsuit.  

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2012-10-14

  • Had a fantastic time at the MAJ Technology/Social Media seminar, today. Terrific speakers and topics–if anyone… http://t.co/IXks1St6 #

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2012-10-14

  • Had a fantastic time at the MAJ Technology/Social Media seminar, today. Terrific speakers and topics–if anyone… http://t.co/IXks1St6 #

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