Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood’s crusade against distracted driving is getting a lot of federal money behind it. $2.4 million is being used for a pilot program in Delaware and California called Phone in One Hand, Ticket in the Other. Here is more of what Mr. LaHood is planning:
- Promote distracted driving laws in the 11 states without such rules
- Encourage auto industry to develop and fine tune technology to help prevent distracted driving
- Work on driver education course material to educate younger drivers
You can find the official Blueprint here.
There have been some recent medical malpractice trials in Maryland and D.C. over the past few weeks. For anyone who is counting, the scorecard is four plaintiff victories and three plaintiff losses. Looking a little deeper into what that means, consider that most medical malpractice cases which are strong for the plaintiff side tend to settle before trial. The ones that go to trial are the ones where there the two sides either cannot agree on a medical malpractice settlement, or where the plaintiff has an uphill battle for some reason. Statistically, I’ve read that about 70-75% of medical malpractice trials are defense verdicts. So, we’re doing pretty good. Here are some details:
Plaintiff trial victories:
- D.C. Superior Court: $5.36 million jury verdict. Failure to diagnose colorectal cancer. The doctor’s patient died because of the failure to diagnose. The defendant doctor, a family practice physician, never offered colorectal cancer screening to his patient in ten years.
- U.S. District Court for Maryland (Baltimore): $1.53 million jury verdict. Failure to timely diagnose flesh-eating bacteria that caused a man significant genital injury. Because of the Maryland cap on noneconomic damages, the verdict will likely be reduced to approximately $780,000. Judge Paul Grimm.
- Montgomery County Circuit Court: $691,000 jury verdict. Failure to timely diagnose and treat lung cancer in an 81 year-old woman. Judge Ronald Rubin.
- Prince George’s County Circuit Court: $20.9 million jury verdict for a shoulder dystocia injury. Because of the Maryland cap on non-economic damages, the verdict will likely be reduced to about $1.53 million. Judge Toni E. Clarke.
Plaintiff trial losses:
- Baltimore County Circuit Court: Defense verdict. Loss of oxygen to the brain caused by complications from a laparoscopic cholecystectomy. Judge Michael J. Finifter.
- Carroll County Circuit Court: Defense verdict. Death caused by squamous cell cancer.
- D.C. Superior Court: Defense verdict. Dental malpractice case.
Still at trial:
- Baltimore City Circuit Court: Birth injury case against Johns Hopkins; life care plan of over $23 million. Jury deliberating since June 20. Judge Marcus Shar.
Trial coming up:
- Frederick County Circuit Court: MedMal trial starting June 25, 2012. Judge William R. Niklas.
The Boeing 747. Imagine if two of these crashed every day.
CNN published 10 Shocking Medical Mistakes this past weekend. As a medical malpractice lawyer, it’s a little hard to be shocked by the doctor and hospital horror stories. However, these stories are always heartbreaking. Here’s a shocking statistic:
Medical errors kill more than a quarter million people every year in the United States and injure millions. Add them all up and “you have probably the third leading cause of death” in the country, says Dr. Peter Pronovost, an anesthesiologist and critical care physician at Johns Hopkins Hospital.
250,000 deaths a year is no joke. That’s the equivalent of 625 Boeing-747 jets crashing every year. If we lost that many airplanes, you bet we would do something about. But medical malpractice? Well, that’s just frivolous lawsuits, right?
In case you don’t have the patience to go through the “click for the next shocking medical mistake” format, here there are, along with some commentary about what you can do to prevent similar injury to yourself or a loved one:
- Treating the wrong patient: make sure that every doctor and nurse who enters your hospital room checks your wristband, and compares it to their chart. This can prevent needless radiology or medication errors.
- Leaving medical equipment in the body cavity: one all-to common error occurs when doctors and nurses leave equipment in the body–surgical sponges are the most common. Speak to the doctor before the surgery, and make sure he/she knows that you are concerned about such an event, and ask them to pay particular attention to the equipment checklist before they sew you back up. If you feel unusual pains after surgery, don’t hesitate to request a radiological scan that might pick up this equipment.
- Lost patients: particularly for nursing homes and hospitals who care for patients with dementia or Alzheimers, a risk is that patients might walk away from the facility or get lost in the facility. Sometimes they get hurt crossing neighboring streets, or die from dehydration or wound complications. If a loved one has a mental challenge that might make him or her susceptible to this risk, make sure that someone is always with him/her, or discuss the protocol for locking the patients door to prevent wandering.
- Fake doctors: most medical malpractice is the result of doctors who simply make mistakes. Most doctors mean well. However, some people claim to be doctors and sell their services, including surgery, without the education to back it up. Check out the doctor through the American Medical Association’s website and your state physician licensing board (in Maryland, it is the Maryland Board of Physicians). Also, check the court system to see if your doctor has had any negative lawsuits verdicts.
- Waiting in the Emergency Room: the news is replete with stories of patients who had been incorrectly triaged who died in the emergency room waiting area, or who ended up with permanent and disfiguring injuries (like amputations from flesh-eating bacteria). Patients must advocate on behalf of themselves–the reality is that you cannot trust the medical team to get it right 100% of the time, and if your injury seems serious, get to another hospital, or be the squeaky wheel until you get help.
- Air bubbles in blood: one story was about a patient who was ready for discharge, but whose nurse pulled out a tube from his chest incorrectly. Air entered the wound, cutting off oxygen to his major organs, and causing his death. If you are ever concerned that a health care provider is inexperienced, request that a supervisor be present during any procedures.
- Operating on the wrong body part: when going in for surgery, make sure that the doctor marks the correct limb before anesthesia is administered.
- Hospital-acquired infection: hospitals are not clean places. Before the doctors or nurses touch you, make sure they wash their hands. It’s okay to remind them of this. If they give you an attitude, contact a supervisor. Hospital infection and cleanliness is a big deal, and hospitals spend untold amounts of money trying to get it right. They want to know if their employees are not following directions.
- Wrong tubes: mistaking one plastic tube for another can mean the food is pumped into the circulatory system, or drugs are pumped into the stomach. When a nurse or doctor comes in intending to inject something, make sure you know what it is, and double-check that it goes in the right tube. Whenever a tube is inserted, find out what the purpose is so you can advocate on your own behalf.
- Waking up during surgery: when anesthesia partially fails, patients may wake up and be aware of the surgery (and the pain), but be unable to speak or cry out. There is unfortunately little that can be done to prevent this, other than speaking with the anesthesiologist beforehand, and finding out when the equipment was last maintained.
The most important thing is that you are the advocate for your own health. Doctors are overworked, stressed, sleep-deprived, and human. They make mistakes. As patients, we have the ability to prevent some of them.
I’ve said it before–Excel is one of the most undervalued software programs by attorneys. Partly this is because many attorneys think Excel is just for number-crunching (attorneys don’t like math. Math probably doesn’t like attorneys). Partly it is because Excel uses formulas, and just looks intimidating. All those empty cells, just starting at you. But it is an invaluable resource.
Solos and small firms in particular should learn the basics of Excel. If you can’t afford a case management program like Needles, TrialWorks, or Time Matters (my favorite), you should still have some way to track basic case data and status. Excel is the easiest way out there. It also helps to automate other types of projects. Here are some things I use Excel for:
- Case Data List
- Collections Cases: Interest Calculation Spreadsheet
- Settlement and Negotiation Spreadsheet
- Settlement and Distribution Spreadsheet
So here’s the Excel tip of the day:
Some of my Excel column categories have sub-categories. For example, in my Case Data List, I have a section for Dates. Under that section, I need to include dates of injury (DOI); intake date; retainer date; and case resolution date. Because you may have an even number of sub-categories, or because the columns may be different widths, it can be hard to know where to place the upper-level category title to make the chart look nice. That’s why you use Merge. Here’s how it works:
Free Excel Legal Templates
If you want samples of useful Excel spreadsheets, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Put “Excel Samples” in the subject header, and I’ll send some out to you right away.
Posted by john
on Dec 14th, 2011 in Statistics
| 0 comments
The 2009 data for state court statistics is now available. It’s fun to look at these statistics, and see what take-home messages there are. Of course, statistics mean many different things to many people, so the take-home message is probably what you want it to be. Here’s some interesting facts from the study:
- There were over 100 million cases in the U.S. state courts
- Maryland judges handle approximately 2,058 new cases every year (the national average is 1,791)
- Civil cases (usually where one person sues another person for money) increased by only 1% from 2008
- Courts nationally have a difficult time keeping up with caseloads
In many cases, statistics were given for a number of states, but some states (Maryland, for example) was left out. I’d like to know the clearance rates for Maryland courts–just how many cases do Maryland judges manage to dispose of? What types of civil cases comprise a typical Maryland caseload (in many states, the civil caseload was comprised of mostly contract and small claims cases–this hardly fits the profile of courthouses filed with “ambulance chasing lawyers”). In many of those states, tort cases ranged from 2% to 24% (24% being the outlier). The average was 5%.
The real take home message is that judges are probably underpaid. They have tough jobs, almost all of them could be making more in the private sector, and no matter what they decide, one person is always going to be unhappy.