In automobile manufacturing, a small defect can cause a lifetime of suffering. In automobile manufacturing, a small defect can cause a lifetime of suffering. In automobile manufacturing, a small defect can cause a lifetime of suffering. In automobile manufacturing, a small defect can cause a lifetime of suffering. In automobile manufacturing, a small defect can cause a lifetime of suffering.
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In automobile manufacturing, a small defect can cause a lifetime of suffering.

Posted May 19, 2016

New advancements in technology and engineering have drastically altered the car buying experience . One of the most common features on every new car buyer’s mind is safety. Despite the unpredictability of some auto accidents, it almost goes without saying that no one would ever expect the features designed to keep you safe could actually be responsible for turning a minor accident into a major tragedy.

With so many innovative features to choose from today, who would think that you need to be concerned about something as simple as an automobile airbag deploying properly? However, for 3.2 million Nissan models recalled in the past year, just the opposite is true. And generally speaking, auto defects are unfortunately more common than you may think. Far too often, these deficiencies only come to light after it’s too late.

Strike three in the Nissan airbag auto recall

This year, Nissan issued its third recall for defects in their airbag sensors since 2013. The cause of the recall for various 2013-2017 models was due to a defective front seat occupancy-classification sensor (OCS), which is responsible for determining whether the occupant of the passenger seat is a child or small adult, in order to disable the airbag and keep it from deploying. “Unusual seating postures” and engine vibration were initially blamed for the system’s inability to recognize seated passengers, but even after an OCS software update, vehicle owners still noticed the passenger airbag would display as deactivated when grown adults were seated.

More than 3,200 complaints and warranty claims for the failed sensors caused The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to open investigations on twelve different models, revealing that nearly 3.2 million cars were affected—including those previously recalled for the same issue. Automobile recalls aren’t always preemptive, but instead are reactionary measures after a serious accident has already occurred.

What’s worse is that too often the resulting injury or death of a driver or passenger is due to a fully cognizant decision by the automobile manufacturer to use a flawed design or product as part of a vehicle’s engineering. Some factors responsible for an automobile accident may be impossible to foresee, but that doesn’t mean that victims of catastrophic injury or death caused by defects aren’t entitled to the necessary care and support required for the rest of their lives.

A fate undeserved: tragedy that could have been prevented

In 2010, one Pennsylvania man became quadriplegic after his 1999 Acura Integra flipped, and his seatbelt failed to prevent his head from striking the roof. This landmark case was handled and tried to a jury by trial attorneys Stewart J. Eisenberg and Daniel J. Sherry Jr., of the Philadelphia catastrophic personal injury law firm Eisenberg, Rothweiler, Winkler, Eisenberg & Jeck, P.C. They presented evidence that the accident was caused by an auto design defect, as well as the Honda Motor Company’s failure to use a safer alternative.

Honda denied any faults in their seatbelt design, but attorneys Eisenberg and Sherry were able to uncover that Honda was aware, for more than a decade, of the seatbelt’s inability to prevent a driver from striking his or her head on the roof. The information had been revealed in a 1992 rollover test. Honda attempted no additional testing to resolve the issue, and failed to provide adequate warnings to consumers.

After a nine-day trial in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court of, a jury unanimously reached a verdict that awarded the accident victim $55.3 million to assist with future care expenses, loss of earnings and the pain and suffering that resulted from the vehicle defects. It was the largest recorded verdict for an auto defect case in Pennsylvania history.

Finding recourse after catastrophe

No one expects that the automobile they drive is poorly designed or carelessly manufactured, nor would they likely know when a defect is to blame in an accident. It takes experienced and knowledgeable attorneys such as those at Eisenberg, Rothweiler, Winkler, Eisenberg & Jeck, P.C. who will fight to protect your interests and secure your future. Our attorneys work closely with experts in automobile design, , accident reconstruction, biomechanical engineering, and more, so we know what to look for and how to investigate all aspects of a crash.

If you or someone you know has been injured in an automobile accident due to an automobile defect, contact the attorneys at Eisenberg, Rothweiler, Winkler Eisenberg & Jeck, PC today for a free consultation.

 

Premises Liability: Not Just Your Average Slip And Fall

Posted May 10, 2016

When people hear the term “premises liability”, scenarios such as slip and fall accidents in the grocery store typically come to mind. The customer has a reasonable expectation that the store will not be an unsafe place to do his or her shopping. The storeowner has invited the public in to buy groceries and is responsible for maintaining a reasonably safe environment – free from concealed wet spots and slippery banana peels. But not all cases are as clear-cut.

Premises liability applies to a wide range of cases in which an entrant upon land sustains physical harm due to some dangerous condition on the land. These cases include:

  • Dangerous windows
  • Unguarded pools
  • Falling trees
  • Defective roadways
  • Open elevator shafts
  • Hidden steps
  • Unsafe worksites
  • Negligent security

Generally speaking, under Pennsylvania law following the Restatement (Second) of Torts, a possessor of land owes a duty of care to those entering the land, and the nature of that duty depends on whether the entrant is a trespasser (unconsented entrant), licensee (permitted visitor – e.g. social guest), or invitee (business visitor). The lowest duty, owed to an adult trespasser, is to avoid willful and wanton misconduct. Next, the possessor may be liable to a licensee for failing to exercise reasonable care where the possessor, not the licensee, has actual or constructive knowledge of a hazard. With invitees, a possessor actually has an affirmative duty to conduct a reasonable inspection of the premises to discover any hazard.

A recent premises liability case in Philadelphia, involving a little girl who sustained a traumatic brain injury when she fell from a third-story bedroom window onto the concrete below, demonstrates that premises liability cases can be complex and involve many parties beyond the premises owner. The three year old girl was with her mom visiting family residing in an affordable housing complex in North Philadelphia. When playing with her cousins in an upper bedroom, she climbed onto a deep window sill from a bunk bed positioned near the window and either fell or was pushed through the open, unguarded window. The child survived the tragedy but required a series of operations for her fractured skull and will continue to require ongoing care for permanent injuries, the full extent of which are still not known.

Investigation into the incident revealed facts which supported a negligence claim against many premises defendants based on their collective failure to protect the window with a fall prevention device (window stop or guard) or, alternatively, move the bedroom door so that the bunk bed could have been positioned on a non-windowed wall:

  • The premises was certified for occupancy just months before the incident after undergoing a lengthy renovation project, during which bedroom and other windows were replaced and the bedroom door wall was reframed to accommodate HVAC
  • All those involved in the project – owner, developer, project manager, general contractor, subcontractors, superintendent, and architect – knew that young children were occupying the premises including the third floor bedroom
  • The premises defendants had actual or constructive knowledge that, given the tight room layout, a bunk bed was positioned in its most logical place in front of the window (where it was always positioned pre-project and where the general contractor positioned it after the project), thereby providing easy window access to the typical curious child, as detailed in numerous industry studies seemingly ignored by the defendants.

With the help of a window safety consultant and architect expert, attorneys Nany J. Winkler and Todd A. Schoenhaus of the catastrophic personal injury firm, Eisenberg, Rothweiler, Winkler, Eisenberg & Jeck, successfully argued that, despite passing inspections, the premises defendants owed a duty to their licensee client to go above and beyond minimum building standards to safeguard the hazardous bedroom window. Shortly before the start of trial, the attorneys were able to settle Plaintiff’s case for over $5.5 million.

“We are extremely pleased to be able to help this little girl and her family and see that she receives the appropriate medical care and ongoing support she will need,” said attorney Todd A. Schoenhaus. “The incredible tragedy here is that a little girl was terribly injured, despite the fact that multiple actors[—property owner, property manager, contractors, construction superintendent, project architect, window supplier and installer—]all had it within their power to see to it that something as simple as a $5 window guard was installed and, instead, did nothing.”

This recent case demonstrates that not all premise liability cases are simple slip and falls. Some can be complex and involve catastrophic injuries jointly caused by many others. If you or a loved one has suffered harm on another’s premises, it is critical to have an experienced premises liability attorney on your side so that the incident can be fully investigated and all those bearing responsibility can be held accountable. Such an attorney can be found at the Law Offices of Eisenberg Rothweiler Winkler Eisenberg & Jeck, P.C. Please call (866) 569-3400 for a FREE initial consultation.

 

Polaris Off-Highway Recreational Vehicles Recalled Due to Fire Risk

Posted April 26, 2016

A popular Recreational Off-Highway Vehicle sold by Polaris Industries, Inc. is the subject of a recall by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). The Polaris Model Year 2013-2016 RZR 900 and RZR 1000 both pose risks of catching fire while being driven. One burn fatality and 19 other injuries have been reported, including first, second, and third-degree burns. The fatality was a 15-year old passenger who was killed when the ROV rolled and caught fire. Polaris is cooperating with the CPSC in the recall, and has voluntarily suspended sales of all recalled vehicles until they have undergone the needed repairs. Owners and riders are being urged to discontinue use of the vehicles immediately due to the serious risk of injury. The company reports that it has received over 160 reports of fires.

The two Polaris models have been extremely popular, and the recall involves approximately 133,000 of the ROVS that have been sold through Polaris dealers between July 2012 and April of 2016. The vehicles, which were manufactured in the United States and Mexico, retailed for $16,000 and $26,000. Owners are urged to check the company’s website and click on “Off-Road Safety Recalls” to determine whether their model is included in the recall, and contact their nearest Polaris dealer, which will provide a free repair.

Recreational Off-Highway Vehicles (ROV) are becoming an increasingly popular choice for those who are seeking an off-road driving experience. Unlike All Terrain Vehicles (ATV) that are straddled by a single rider and which are operated with handlebars, throttles and hand levers for braking, ROVs are much more similar to driving a car. These vehicles feature a steering wheel, a brake and acceleration pedal, and may accommodate up to a driver and one or more passengers. Vehicles are equipped with roll bars and safety belts for both passenger and driver. Operators must have a driver’s license and be a minimum operating age of 16.

Motor Vehicle defects can result in severe permanent injury and death. Those injured by Polaris vehicle defects have sustained serious burns. For motor vehicle defect cases such as this, it is vitally important to contact an experienced law firm that handles complex catastrophic personal injury cases. Philadelphia law firm Eisenberg, Rothweiler, Winkler, Eisenberg & Jeck has the experience. Contact the firm to set up a free consultation: (215) 546-6636.

 

Attorney Insights: Repeat Offenders of Medical Malpractice

Posted April 19, 2016

In this interview, personal injury attorney Brian Hall offers his professional perspective regarding surprising medical malpractice statistics recently published in a New England Journal of Medicine article: “Prevalence and Characteristics of Physicians Prone to Malpractice Claims”

 

Q: “Do you think attorneys were surprised by the information in the article?”

A: “I think many of us intuited that it was indeed the case that a small number of physicians are responsible for a disproportionate share of medical malpractice. Not only cases brought, but also claims paid. I think that the value of this article is putting forth some numbers that strongly support that intuition. The article found that 1% of all doctors account for 32% of paid medical malpractice claims. That is huge difference.”

 

Q: “What’s being done to keep these “repeat offenders” in check?”

A: “I think that there are a couple of checks on it. One is the specter of a malpractice suit, and the other is the difficulty that some doctors might have with getting liability coverage if they have a mounting number of malpractice cases.”

 

Q: “It doesn’t seem as though this information can be easily obtained, but how can a consumer find out if doctors have had malpractice claims filed against them?”

A: “There are ways of figuring it out, but not always. For example, in Philadelphia, if you want to get a sense of how many times a doctor has been sued, and also to get a sense of how many times the doctor has been sued successfully, you can go onto the Court of Common Pleas website, look for the civil docket search, and then plug in the doctor’s name. This should bring up all of the lawsuits that have been brought against that doctor. It’s one way of getting pretty decent information about whether or not a particular doctor has been sued, and if so, successfully or unsuccessfully.”

 

Q: “What actions are being taken against doctors who repeatedly commit malpractice?”

A: “All claims, settlements, and all settlement payments made on behalf of doctors are supposed to be reported to the state licensing board. That information should also be shared with the National Practitioners Data Bank. Whether disciplinary action is taken, however, is not public information. Most of what happens in those proceedings is confidential.”

 

Q: “It seems that hospitals, whether intentionally or intentionally, are shielding doctors in some cases. Do you agree?”

A: “The article mentioned that a number of malpractice claims were excluded from the statistics because a hospital, or other healthcare entity, paid on the doctor’s behalf. I see this fairly frequently in the cases that I handle against doctors or healthcare providers at hospitals. The hospital will step in and settle the case on its own insurance. That shields the doctor from being reporting to the National Practitioner Data Bank. Referring to your question about why more people don’t know about this— it’s because the information in the National Practitioner Data Bank is not readily available. It’s confidential.”

 

Q: “Changing gears—other statistics regarding physicians and malpractice were also interesting, perhaps even counter-intuitive—age of the physician, for example. ”

A: “Yes. The study found that younger doctors are less likely to have paid a malpractice claim.”

 

Q: “How is that the case?”

A: “I think it’s fair to say that many of the more difficult medical cases are handled by more experienced doctors. In those difficult cases, there’s a greater potential for mistakes to be catastrophic for the patient. That might account for it.”

 

Q: “There were also statistics related to practice area or specialty—thoughts?”

A: “What stood out for me is that emergency medicine is, what, 7th down the list? I thought it would be much higher. There’s a state bill pending that would provide greater immunity from lawsuits on behalf of emergency medicine doctors. The argument was that the emergency medicine doctors are often targets of malpractice cases. These numbers tend not to support that.”

 

Q: “How do the statistics mentioned in the article compare with your personal experience?”

A: “In my experience, I’ve been involved in more lawsuits against emergency medicine doctors than, for example, internal medicine doctors. Yet, internists rank significantly higher in the study than emergency medicine doctors.”

 

Q: “These types of cases are very expensive to try. Is that primarily due to the cost of expert witnesses?”

A: “Malpractice cases are expensive to bring. They cost a lawyer, typically, tens of thousands of dollars, sometimes more than a hundred thousand dollars, to bring the case to court. In Pennsylvania, we do not have depositions of experts, yet medical malpractice cases still are expensive. In New Jersey and in federal court, there are depositions of experts. That really ramps up the cost of those cases.”

 

Q: “So what actions do you think might make a positive impact on these troubling statistics?”

A: “One thing I take away from the article is that it makes sense for there to be more oversight, more direct supervision of doctors, in order to cut down on the number of medical negligence cases. The article suggests, among other things, peer counseling, training, and supervision. Those are standard approaches in other industries. They have not been widely adopted inmedicine. I think that these are good suggestions, or at least a start toward the possible improvements.”

 

 

 

Future Leaders – Get Involved Today for Our Tomorrow

Posted

Attorney Josh Schwartz is the Chair of the Philadelphia Trial Lawyers Association Future leaders Section and is excited about the growing involvement of the younger members of the trial bar. The Future Leader Section of the Philadelphia Trial Lawyers Association includes members who have been practicing for ten years or less, but their involvement in the legislative process on key legal issues of the day will serve the legal profession well for decades to come.

One of the Future Leaders initiatives is “Future Leaders on the Hill” in which Future Leader members will travel to Harrisburg, meet legislators and discuss key topics of interest, such as H.B. 1064. If HB 1064 were to become law, it would essentially shield emergency room doctors (and any medical care professionals providing emergency care in any setting) from liability by increasing the burden of proof to ‘clear and convincing’ and increasing the degree of negligence to ‘gross negligence.’

“The Future Leaders on the Hill is an opportunity for our future leaders to go to Harrisburg, meet with the legislators, sit in on hearings, understand more about the process, and also to generate some face-to-face interaction between some of the young leaders of the organization and the members of the House and Senate in Harrisburg.” said Mr. Schwartz.

In addition to their interest in the legislative process, the group has been working on ways continue to attract new members to the organization and also serve the needs of those that have recently become involved.

“It’s exciting and rewarding,” said Mr. Schwartz. “PTLA is such an extraordinarily important part of the effort to keep the court doors open and available to the public. The Future Leaders Section is the next generation of trial lawyers in Philadelphia and we must make sure that PTLA is just as strong ten years from now as it is today.”

Attorneys who have been in practice for fewer than ten years and are interested in joining the organization should contact: Josh Schwartz at Josh@ERLegal.com.

Distribution of Medical Malpractice Claims

Posted March 29, 2016

A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine sought to better understand the distribution of medical malpractice claims, and postulated that if physicians who are prone to malpractice claims could be reliably identified earlier, the effort to improve the overall quality of care might be advanced.

Large amounts of data from 2005 through 2014 were analyzed covering claims paid against physicians in an effort to calculate risk, identify high-risk characteristics among physicians and quantify risk over time.

Results yielded from the study included the following:

  • 1% of the physicians studied accounted for 32% of paid claims
  • The fewer number of claims against a physician, the fewer there were likely to be in the future; the more claims against a physician, the higher the risk of additional claims.
  • Risk of reoccurrence of claims varied widely by physician specialty

The study concluded that within a recent 10-year span of time, a small number of physicians with specific characteristics accounted for a disproportionately large percentage of paid malpractice claims.

Distribution_of_Medial_Malpractice_Claims

 

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Amtrak Derailment Injury Data Released

Posted March 21, 2016

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has released more detailed injury information regarding the May 2015 Amtrak derailment. The data list classifies the number and type of injuries sustained in the crash based on severity.

Information regarding every individual who received medical treatment for the crash was listed. It includes age, gender, height and weight, as well as specific details about their injuries.

The list provides specific details in regard to the following key information:

  • 253 people were aboard the train
  • 7 people died of their injuries on the scene; 1 died in emergency at the hospital
  • 185 people were injured and taken to 10 area hospitals
  • Injuries ranged from abrasions and bruises to severe lacerations, broken bones and damage to internal organs
  • The most severe injuries occurred in the first three cars of the train.

This important data will be added to the extensive number of documents being compiled in the investigation to determine exactly what happened and suggest recommendations to improve future safety.

The release of the injury data comes weeks after the announcement that the damages limit has been raised from $200 million to $295 million.

“On the surface, the damages limit seems like a very large number. I’m certain the list of injuries will demonstrate to all that the harm suffered by the victims in these cases will far exceed the cap amount,” said Fredric Eisenberg, partner at the catastrophic personal injury law firm, Eisenberg, Rothweiler, Winkler, Wisenberg & Jeck, P.C.

The Unintended Effect of The Statute of Limitations in Clergy Sexual Abuse Cases

Posted March 9, 2016

Recently, a grand jury in Altoona, Pennsylvania, released the shocking findings of a two-year investigation. The 147-page report documents the cover up by the Altoona diocese of the molestation and rape of hundreds of children by priests.

The statement from Attorney General Kathleen Kane that followed only compounds the horror of these findings. She noted at the time that no one could be criminally charged due to the statute of limitations. Much of the abuse happened between the 1940s and the 1980s. When most of the abuse occurred, the statute of limitations for civil lawsuits was two years or at most until the victim turned age 20. Decades have gone by for the victims, many of whom have only recently been able to come forward.

Every attorney understands that the purpose and effect of a statute of limitations is to protect defendants and help insure a fair trial. In this case however, as well as others like it, there exists a number of factors that should give us all cause to question whether or not justice is actually being served by the current statute of limitations.

Under the current law, a victim can sue for child sexual abuse as late as age 30. To the average person who has never been the victim of such a crime, or known someone who has, this may seem like more than a sufficient amount of time to come forward.

The fact is, it is not uncommon for victims who have endured sexual abuse as children at the hands of an authority figure—a coach, scout leader, priest or teacher, for example—to suffer in silence for a long period of time before coming forward; that is, if they ever come forward at all.

Why is this the case? Victims are often deeply traumatized by the sexual abuse they experienced, and typically feel an overwhelming sense of shame. Clergy are revered and respected members of the community. The thought of reporting abuse committed by such figures makes victims afraid of not being believed. Victims may even blame themselves, as if somehow they could possibly be at fault or prevented these heinous acts by child predators. There is sometimes a religious component to the shame, in which victims believe that reporting the abuse is a betrayal of their faith, their spiritual father or other act of sin. Many victims are lured into abuse situations in which a kind of emotional confusion takes over when a clergy member suddenly sexualizes a close relationship. All of these factors help to explain why victims of clergy sexual abuse often take so long to come forward.

Some states have tried to help the victims of these tragic events by completely removing the time limits for future criminal cases involving child sexual abuse. Also the time limit to file civil law suits for abuse that occurred in the past has been lifted, often times referred to as a window. In Pennsylvania, the governor and many others are calling for this type of reform.

What action can we take, as attorneys who are dedicated to helping the victims of childhood sexual abuse?

First, as good citizens who have a sense of compassion, we must do everything within our power to keep this topic at the forefront of public awareness. We must contact state representatives and lawmakers and urge them to take swift action and do the right thing.

As attorneys who are part of the communities we serve, we can make a difference through support of local and national organizations dedicated to helping the victims of childhood sexual abuse.

It is critical for those who have suffered childhood sexual abuse at the hands of a clergy member to seek counsel from an experienced law firm that understands how difficult it is to come forward; a firm that will do everything possible to see that victims get the assistance and support necessary to find closure and ease their suffering.

Today, right now, add your voice to the many others in support of the recommendations of the 37th Statewide Investigating Grand jury: the complete removal of statutes for future child sexual abuse criminal cases and opening a window of time allowing civil suits for past abuse.

 

 

Stewart Eisenberg is a founding partner of Eisenberg, Rothweiler, Winkler, Eisenberg & Jeck, P.C., LLC., in Philadelphia, is an experienced attorney in civil rights and childhood sexual abuse cases, and someone who is personally committed to seeing that the victims of childhood clergy sexual abuse receive the justice they deserve.

Takata Airbags – What’s worse, a faulty product or the cover-up?

Posted February 22, 2016

Recently, federal safety regulators determined that yet another person was killed by an exploding Takata airbag in the vehicle he was driving. This brings the total number of deaths linked to the faulty airbags to 10. Millions of vehicles with similar airbags remain on the road with the dangerous problem still un-remedied. As investigators pour over evidence in an effort to uncover all of the details in the product failure, recent testimony in a Florida court has added a new and sinister layer to the story.

It turns out that Takata engineers may have discarded and altered testing data in an attempt to cover up the product failures more than 16 years ago.

Exposing a cover-up

In his deposition, a Takata engineer stated that certain airbag parts had failed during performance tests in 2000. He attempted to examine those parts, but soon learned that the parts had been ordered disposed of by Takata’s Vice President of Engineering at that time. The same Vice President has been linked to other reports of discarded evidence connected to airbag failure.

Takata manipulated data to hide testing results. The results showed that the airbag inflators could detonate so violently, that they would cause the airbag to over-pressurize and rupture. The casing enclosing the propellant would explode into dangerous metal shards fired into the passenger compartment and driver of the automobile.

An explosive situation

Despite the evidence to support a national recall, Takata initially issued a narrower recall claiming that the malfunction was due to persistent high humidity in certain regions of the U.S. where the airbag explosions had occurred. Ammonium nitrate, the chemical used as a propellant in the faulty Takata airbags, is known to be sensitive to temperature changes and moisture. However, the compound also breaks down over time, explaining the spontaneous explosions. There are other airbag propellants available on the market, but ammonium nitrate is extremely inexpensive.

It is almost inconceivable—a product that is specifically designed to protect people from serious injury, instead turns out to kill or maim them. Even if there is a way to wrap your mind around the tragedy, it suddenly expands by geometric proportions with the knowledge that the manufacturer knew about the dangerous product defects years before anyone was harmed and yet did nothing to prevent the deaths of ten people and injuries to 100 more.

Little consolation for victims

As a result of the faulty airbags and attempted data cover-up, Honda ended its long-time relationship with Takata. But Honda vehicles aren’t the only ones affected by the faulty airbags. Five other manufacturers have launched national recalls for their vehicles that contain Takata airbags.

Hopefully there will never be another victim of an exploding Takata airbag. For those who have been injured as a result of this serious product defect, the harm is only compounded by the knowledge that it not only could have been prevented, there was an intentional effort made to cover it up.

Product defect cases call for experienced attorneys

Takata airbag failure is just one example of thousands of dangerous—or deadly—auto and product defects that come to light every year. Understanding the complexities in these cases often entails thorough investigation to uncover exactly what occurred and all those who should be held accountable. That’s why only a law firm experienced in auto defects and product liability law should be consulted about these cases. For victims of these airbag tragedies , nothing less than their future is at stake. Philadelphia law firm Eisenberg, Rothweiler, Winkler, Eisenberg & Jeck, P.C. is just such a firm. If you or a loved one have been the victim of an auto defect or other product defect, please contact the firm at (866) 569-3400 for a FREE initial consultation.

When it comes to patient harm, even an ounce of prevention is invaluable

Posted February 15, 2016

All of us tend to think of hospitals as the place we go to get better, not sustain additional illnesses or injury. In recent years, estimates have ranged as high as 440,00 people per year that have been harmed while receiving care in hospitals. These injuries and deaths are due to a wide variety of causes, such as infections, drug reactions, medication errors,and bedsores, to name only a few examples.

There are more than 35 million hospital admissions each year and more than four times that number in emergency room visits. If just 1% of hospital admissions resulted in harm to a patient, the number of patients harmed could amount to more than 350,000.

The truth is, when it comes to patient safety, the only acceptable error rate is zero. Medical professionals have numerous responsibilities that directly affect patients, so even a small error rate can translate into many people harmed.

The sad fact is that it is that much of the harm to patients can prevented. What could or should the medical profession be doing differently?

Health care providers should be committed to following evidence-informed practices.

A number of hospitals and health centers have made significant strides toward improving safety by implementing systems with checklist safeguards, and standardizing proven protocols for procedures. This kind of system works well in situations where stakes are high, and risk factors numerous. Aerospace is one example. Employing these kinds of systems effectively adds layers of protection that can and does save lives.

Over the last decade, big data has revolutionized practically every industry with vast repositories of information and predictive analytics that can draw correlations to reveal probable outcomes. Health care is no different. Extensive data exists in regard to countless conditions, procedures, and outcomes. It is already used to predict epidemics, cure disease, improve quality of life and avoid preventable deaths. Medical practitioners should strive to benefit from every advantage modern technology can provide.

The key point to remember with both of these methods for reducing preventable death, is that they rely heavily on the ability of medical professionals to change the way they are working—a change that must take place amidst typically high levels of stress, high volume and overwhelming demands.

No one is perfect. Doctors and other medical professionals are only human. Yet we depend upon them for our very lives. It is for precisely these reasons that they should employ proven practices with layers of safeguards that reduce the possibility of errors and preventable harm. After all, lives are depending upon it.

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