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
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.
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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.
Medical Malpractice Just Got Harder To Hide
Posted January 26, 2016
Due to the highly specialized nature of the healthcare profession, peer review is one of the best vehicles to examine whether or not a physician has met accepted standards of care.
In Pennsylvania, as well as other states, the peer review process for doctors and other medical professionals is confidential and given protection under the law.
In Pennsylvania, the Peer Review Protection Act provides that “proceedings and records of the review committee shall be held in confidence and shall not be subject to discovery or introduction into evidence.”
Since the law was passed, attorneys have argued over specifically which communication vehicles are shielded from discovery because they have been included in the peer review process. These include emails, conversations, personal notes, and various types of reports, files and more. Typically, the decision comes down to whether or not the communication fits within the definitions outlined within the Peer Review Protection Act.
In some instances, medical malpractice attorneys have been frustrated by the Protection Act and have argued that it has prevented discovery of evidence critical to proving malpractice.
Recently an important decision was handed down by the courts in regard to the protections offered by the peer review process. A Lackawanna County judge, the honorable Terrence R. Nealon, ruled that records detailing a physician’s malpractice history would not be protected simply because they were placed in the physician’s peer review file.
The case involved a couple whose unborn child suffered the effects of severe hypoxic brain injury due to delayed action by the attending obstetrician.
The hospital withheld from discovery a number of requested documents, which included malpractice claims information and documents, and evaluation reports and letters from other doctors warning the obstetrician to remedy his delinquent medical records. The hospital claimed that the documents were part of the physician’s credentials file, and therefore shielded under the Peer Review Protection Act, and cited several Superior Court rulings in which similar files were found to qualify for protection.
However, the judge ruled that simply because a document has been submitted to a peer review committee is not reason enough to guarantee protection. In his ruling, Judge Nealon considered the reason why the document was initially developed to be an important factor in deciding whether or not it qualified for protection under the PRPA. The judge stated that records which are maintained by hospitals in the ordinary course of their business, including incident reports and adverse medical events, are not shielded just because they are shared with a peer review committee. The judge also noted that the record did not show the documents in question had actually been presented to a peer review committee.
For medical malpractice attorneys, this recent ruling is an exciting one, promising to provide important evidence that will be used to win cases and deliver justice for their clients, the victims of medical malpractice. To read more about the types of medical malpractice cases Eisenberg Rothweiler Eisenberg Winkler & Jeck have handled in Pennsylvania, click here.
Kill or Cure: Medication Error is a Leading Cause of Medical Malpractice
Posted December 15, 2015
Many people tend to think of medical malpractice in somewhat limited terms. Prescription errors are not typically the first things that come to mind when someone thinks about medical malpractice. The truth is, prescribing the wrong medication is one of the leading causes of medical malpractice. Medication injuries have surged in recent years, adversely affecting the lives of millions of people. These errors result in preventable adverse events that are responsible for thousands of deaths every year.
Various types of prescription errors are made, including the type of medication, the duration or dose prescribed for the patient, prescribing drugs to which the patient is allergic, or prescribing a drug that causes a negative interaction with another drug the patient is taking. Any of these errors can result in permanent injury or death—a tragedy compounded by the fact that the medication was prescribed to the patient by a physician entrusted with his or her care.
Depending upon the specific type of prescription error, a patient may experience any of a wide variety of side effects that could result in permanent injury to the brain and organs, or even death. If you believe that you have been harmed because of errors made with a prescription, you may be able to make a claim for compensation. It is important to seek the counsel of an experienced medical malpractice attorney, because there are strict time limits governing how soon a claim must be filed.
Doctors need to keep up to date on the latest developments in prescribing medication for their patients
There are a number of factors that may contribute to a physician’s negligence when prescribing medication, but prescription drugs are serious medicines that can and do cause serious harm when taken incorrectly. Physicians are highly trained professionals given the responsibility of safely and accurately prescribing medications to their patients, as well as doing everything possible to see that the drugs are administered properly.
Patient safety is paramount and certainly the most important reason for any and all of the precautions taken, including extensive FDA testing and strict regulation. Staying informed with up-to-date knowledge of medications is a primary responsibility of physicians, and certainly required of any physician before prescribing a specific medication.
Children may be at greater risk
Sadly, children are at particular risk of medication errors, primarily attributable to incorrect dosage. Approximately one in 100 medication errors results in what is known as an adverse drug event, in which a pediatric patient is harmed or dies as a result. Obviously, children and adolescents have an immature physiology. Many medications are developed in concentrations appropriate for adults. Determining child dosages of certain medications involves a calculation based on the child’s weight, adding to the risk of medication error.
If you believe that your child was injured due to a medication error, an experienced medical malpractice attorney can assist you in determining whether there has been medical negligence, and advise you as to whether you have a valid claim for compensation.
If you’re an injured patient, don’t wait
For medical malpractice claims in which the patient is injured by a medication error, it is important to take action right away. Seek counsel from a qualified medical malpractice attorney. The attorneys at Eisenberg Rothweiler Winkler Eisenberg & Jeck, P.C. are here to help—a firm with experienced medical malpractice attorneys who will fight to get you the recovery you deserve. If you or someone you know has suffered from any form of medical negligence, telephone us now for accurate claim advice.