Posts Tagged ‘Catastrophic Personal Injury’

Boating Accident:FL East Coast Boating Incident ends in multiple deaths!

June 3, 2010

As my parents have now headed back to Florida from their Memorial Day Weekend visit up here to DC, a bit of nostalgia overtook me, and I decided to look at my old hometown paper online, Florida Today.  The first article to catch my eye was a tragic story about a boating trip during the holiday weekend, gone terribly wrong:

Cyril Holley, 46, and his daughter, Madison Holley, 19, were riding in a boat when they were struck and killed by another vessel, which was carrying other family and friends near Disappearing Island.

Two other people were taken to nearby hospitals.

Witnesses told Local 6 that one of the boats appeared to jump over and crash on top of the victims’ watercraft.

I will tell you from first-hand experience that the waterways and ocean along the east coast of Florida are packed with boats of varying sizes on any given Memorial Day Weekend.  Ponce Inlet (where this horrible incident occurred), an area on Florida’s east coast just south of Daytona Beach, is an area known for its significant boat population.  What makes this story even more tragic, is that Ms. Holley was due to give birth in two weeks, and the unborn child’s father was also on one of the two boats involved in the collision.

An eyewitness briefly describes what he saw as the tragedy unfolded before his eyes:

“The larger boat was just jumping off waves,” said Ryan Yadav, who watched the collision from a nearby beach. “I think it just took too much speed on and went right over. Cut the awning right off.”

Our thoughts are with the families who lost their loved ones.

Brian Nash’s comment: For those of you who have been on our wonderful waterways of D.C. and Maryland, I would imagine you have your own tales of accidents and numerous near-misses. A year ago, I saw a father flying around the Bay in a speed boat in the shipping lane with his kids screaming for joy as they hung on for dear life in a plastic raft being towed behind. Jet skiers, drunks at the helm – they’re all out there. Enjoy the water, but for goodness sake, use some common sense. If you are a boater, you know how fast it can all go so wrong.

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Child Safety Tips: As mercury goes up, so do safety risks for kids!

June 2, 2010

By picpoke.com

Yes, it is really getting hot out there this week!!!  Coming from Florida to DC last year, I thought “OK, so it will not get nearly as hot up here, or at least not as early in the summer.”  Yes, I was wrong.  This thought brought me to thinking about some of the fun things to do in the summer, but also the dangers for our little ones during this time if we are not extra careful.  Lo and behold, I found this article today, courtesy of the Dallas Morning News and reprinted by the Kansas City Star:

Emergency-room professionals have their own name for the long, lovely, lazy days that kids look forward to in summer: trauma season. Because that’s when hospitals see a spike in drownings and heat-related accidents.

The article discusses several myths and related facts associated with those myths.  Here are a few samples from the article:

MYTH: Pool parties are safe as long as adults are around.

FACT: Many drownings happen when adults are close by. The problem is too much commotion. The key is to have a designated adult watching the water because that is where the danger is. The pool should be free of excess toys that can block the view of the water.

MYTH: Floaties keep little ones safe in the water.

FACT: Floaties are designed for fun, not safety. They give a false sense of security, can deflate and can slip off.

MYTH: The kids will be fine in the pool for the short time it takes to answer the phone or get a cold drink.

FACT: In a minute, a child can go under water. In two or three minutes, the child can lose consciousness. In four or five, the child could suffer irreversible brain damage or die. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drowning is the second-leading cause of unintentional, injury-related death for children 1 to 14 years old, second only to car and transportation-related accidents.

The article states several other myths and facts, which include the hazards of leaving children unattended in cars and car seats, as well as sun exposure and dehydration.  We encourage you to read the article in its entirety.  Let’s all have a safe summer out there, please!!

Florida’s doctor discipline system not tough enough, critics say

May 30, 2010

As a Florida-licensed attorney who spent 15 years working in consumer justice law firms in the ‘Sunshine State,’ I keep a watchful eye on trends and developments within various personal injury practice areas in Florida.  There is currently a real, legitimate concern regarding the system that is responsible for disciplining doctors who are licensed to practice medicine in Florida.  The Orlando Sentinel recently published an article how some believe there is much to be desired when it comes to how the  Florida Department of Health handles these matters.  

Consumer group Public Citizen last month ranked Florida the eighth most-lenient in the nation for disciplining doctors. The ranking stems from the number of serious actions per 1,000 doctors last year, when the state revoked the licenses of 94 and suspended 18 others. The toughest state disciplined doctors at rates three times as high. The trend has been true for a decade, the group said.

Critics contend the state does not act fast enough or toughly enough against the small share of practitioners accused of substandard care, negligence, crimes or improper behavior. Too often, they say, the state lets professionals such as Lan continue practicing while officials probe allegations of crimes or serious violations and injuries.

Regulators dismiss 90 percent of complaints that patients or others file against practitioners, more than 95 percent of those against doctors. When action is taken, the state rarely imposes serious punishments, such as revoking or suspending licenses.

There is ‘the other side’ of the story.  According to the article, some of the advocates for the way the system works take the following position:

State officials and some attorneys defend the system and say the criticisms are overstated. They say any system can be improved, but contend the state focuses on protecting the public from professionals who commit the most serious wrongs, and demands remedial training for professionals who make errors.

“I don’t see the evidence to support [the criticism]. We believe we are doing a good job,” said Lucy Gee, the health department’s director of medical quality assurance.

Gee said the process moves deliberately so it can be thorough. Cases remain secret because laws aim to keep baseless complaints from becoming public and unfairly tarnishing professionals, she said.

What about the doctors and individuals within the medical profession that repeatedly cause harm to patients or are charged with serious crimes (felonies) but are permitted to continue practicing medicine?  What about these same individuals within the profession, who do not receive ANY form of discipline whatsoever, or are allowed to continue practicing, while the investigation against them is pending. Here are just a few examples of such real world cases:

Dr. Stuart F. Tillman, a Tallahassee anesthesiologist arrested in July and charged with soliciting sex online from a police officer posing as a girl of 14.

Dr. Joseph M. Hernandez, formerly of Fort Lauderdale, who was arrested in Lake City in February and charged with trafficking narcotic pain pills and prescribing drugs for monetary gain. In 2006, records show the state banned him from doing surgery and temporarily suspended his license because his vision was severely impaired. In 2007, he was fined $5,000 for leaving part of an IV tube in a patient’s chest.

Dr. John N. Mubang, an internist in the Tampa suburb of Seffner who was arrested and charged in July 2008 with drug trafficking and prescribing controlled substances for monetary gain.

All three have pleaded not guilty, with trials pending. Hernandez and Mubang are practicing, according to their offices. Hernandez declined to comment. Mubang and Tillman could not be reached for comment, despite calls or messages left at their offices.

What does this say about the system that disciplines doctors in Florida?  Sure, there are many great doctors in Florida, but for the ones who put their patients’ lives at risk (through negligent treatment or otherwise) or are charged with serious crimes that may have an impact on their practice/medical license, the question remains: Would YOU want to have a surgical procedure performed by a doctor that has a criminal investigation pending against him or her that may land them in jail? I suspect you would prefer your doctor to be completely focused on your surgical procedure and not thinking about other ‘outside distractions.’  Shouldn’t there be additional aggressive safeguards in place that will IMMEDIATELY prevent the medical provider from committing more harm?

We leave you with this: Yes, emergency suspensions were put into effect 248 times in 2009.  However, compare that with the approximate 24,000 complaints that were filed against doctors and other members of the medical profession the same year, by both individuals and other agencies.  Are we really to believe that only 248 of those 24,000 cases required emergency suspension of one’s practice…??

Actor Dennis Quaid sues drug maker

May 27, 2010

Last month, we reported in a blog through our website, how actor Dennis Quaid is involved as a patient advocate, after his newborn twins nearly lost their lives back in 2007, from a medical error that could have very easily been prevented.  Put simply, the precious twins were given two doses of Heparin instead of Hep-lock (an anti-coagulant medication widely used for children).  Why is this significant?  Heparin is a drug one thousand times stronger than what the twins were supposed to have received.

Earlier this week, it was reported in the Contra Costa Times, that Mr. Quaid has filed a lawsuit on behalf of his children.  As far as the extent of his children’s injuries, the article states “The children suffered internal injuries and shock, but the extent of what happened to them will probably not be known for years, according to the suit.”  The lawsuit alleges that vials of the 10,000 unit Heparin should have been recalled previous to what happened to his children, because other infants had already died from similar medication errors.  The suit also claims that the company responsible for making the drug, Baxter Healthcare, “was obligated to warn healthcare providers of the previous medication mistakes.”

We wish the best for the Quaid family, and hope that the discovery in this case shines a light on not only finding out exactly what happened in this case, but also makes information available that may be able to save the lives of other children from future similar medical errors.  We will continue to monitor the course of this case.

Child Health: Labels Urged for Food That Can Choke

May 27, 2010

Earlier this year, we posted a blog on our website in regard to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) policy statement in regard to the prevention of choking among children.  Earlier this week, the New York Times featured an in-depth story on an issue that is very much a part of this policy statement:  food choking hazards among small children.  The article discusses the advocacy efforts to place warning labels on foods, which pose a choking hazard to small children, as well as the proposition that small children should not be allowed to eat certain foods at all.  The article starts with an all too familiar setting that ended in tragedy:

On a July afternoon in 2006, Patrick Hale microwaved a bag of popcorn for his two young children and sat down with them to watch television. When he got up to change the channel, he heard a strange noise behind him, and turned to see his 23-month-old daughter, Allison, turning purple and unable to breathe.

As a Marine, he was certified in CPR, but he could not dislodge the popcorn with blows to her back and finger swipes down her throat. He called 911, but it was too late: by the time Allison arrived at the hospital, her heart had stopped beating. An autopsy found that she had inhaled pieces of popcorn into her vocal cords, her bronchial tubes and a lung.

Does this story make you think twice before giving your little ones popcorn?  On a personal note, I called my wife immediately after reading this story, and we discussed the fact that we should no longer allow our son, who is now two and a half, to have any popcorn. Ironically, she was on her way to take him to a movie that was going to be serving….you guessed it, popcorn.

Now, some of you may say “Well, little kids can choke on anything.”  Well, that is true.  However, there are some foods that pose an increased risk of choking.  Consider the dynamics of how a small child eats, as well as the size of their airway:

Children under 4 are at the highest risk, not only because their airways are small (the back of a toddler’s throat narrows to the diameter of a straw) but also because of the way their eating abilities develop. Front teeth usually come in at 6 or 7 months — so babies can bite off a piece of food — but the first molars, which grind food down, do not arrive until about 15 months, and second molars around 26 months.

“Between the ages of 3 and 4, they’re developing their ability to chew adequately and prepare for swallowing,” said Dr. Nisha Kapadia, a pediatric resident at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center.

When young children chew foods like peanuts, raw carrots and popcorn, some is ground down and some is not, and they tend to swallow unchewed bits of food that can block the airway or be inhaled into the bronchial tubes and lungs.

This concern and the tragic deaths associated with this concern have prompted several organizations to propose various options to attempt to prevent these injuries and deaths.  One such organization is the Center for Science in the Public Interest:

Some advocates say the government should put hazardous foods off limits to young children.

“The F.D.A. needs to set a uniform standard for cautionary information on food that should not be consumed by children under 5,” said Bruce Silverglade, legal director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, an advocacy group that lobbied unsuccessfully in 2003 for a bill to require the Food and Drug Administration to develop food labeling regulations.

Where this debate will end up, we don’t know.  However, to think that in 2001 there were 17,500 children 14 years old and younger treated in emergency rooms for choking, with 60% of those events caused by food, there must be a way to create a safer environment for our children when they are eating.  Any suggestions?

Medical Malpractice:woman awarded $3.5 Million for paraplegia after graft surgery.

May 19, 2010

53 year old Victoria Little, of Harford County, MD, walked into the hospital to have  surgery wearing four inch heel, but when the surgery was over, she was left a paraplegic unable to walk. Ms. Little underwent a grafting procedure in 2007 for blocked arteries.

Ms. Little filed suit in 2008 claiming that Dr. Rodger Schneider and Dr. Mark Gonze, partners and surgeons of Vascular Surgery Associates, used an improper grafting technique. Plaintiff’s counsel, two good friends of ours, Jim Cardea and Scott Kurlander,  argued that the procedure led to blood loss and damage to Ms. Little’s spinal cord, which left her a paraplegic.

The Baltimore Sun reported that after hearing all arguments and nine hours of deliberation, the jury awarded Ms. Little $1.3 million for non-economic damages, $2 million for future medical costs and over $200,00 for prior medical bills.

Attorney for the defendants, E. Phillip Franke, III, claimed that Ms. Little  simply had a poor outcome and that her injuries wee not the result of malpractice. The defense is currently reviewing the case for appeal. In light of Maryland’s cap on non-economic damages (e.g. pain and suffering) we expect that in the interim that the award will be reduced.

Harford County has traditionally been viewed as a conservative jurisdiction and not plaintiff-friendly. Well, the good people of Harford County got it right! Congratulations, Scott and Jim!

Hot Air Balloon Goes Up in Flames – Canada

May 14, 2010

A pleasant hot air balloon ride in Vancouver proved deadly for some.

Twelve passengers gathered aboard the balloon and prepared for takeoff, when suddenly flames erupted from above. It was discovered that the tubing of the balloon providing the propane to the burners which heat the  air came loose. When the tube broke loose, fire began spraying wildly into the basket where  passengers had been patiently awaiting lift-off.

MSNBC News reported that Canadian authorities confirmed two of the twelve passengers aboard did not make it out. As the balloon began to rise and the fire spread, there was no chance for escape.

Of the survivors, Jack Ziyone and his family escaped with relatively minor injuries; while others suffered burns and other injuries. The two passengers that did not escape had been the wife and daughter of a survivor.

“When I was on the ground, he was crying and pointing up,” Jack said. “‘My wife and daughter are up there!’ He was crying. He couldn’t do a thing about it.”

The veteran pilot, whose name was not released, had taken 10,000 passengers aloft throughout his career. He escaped with severe burns and was also hospitalized.

Nigel Vonas, an onlooker, who caught the sight on video stated:

It was just excitement to see something very strange going on in the sky. Those thoughts quickly turned to morbid thoughts that perhaps there was something very wrong going on up there.

All I can come up with is just a very simple message: Life is precious… We need to stop for a second. Put down the iPhones, put down the guns and just realize that life is beautiful. You never know when it’s going to be your last chance to say ‘I love you’ to the person beside you.

He’s right – you never know. Tragedy strikes so quickly. The common and expected things in life we take for granted so often. Sometimes, the unexpected happens and our lives are never the same again. But you know that – just keep remembering it.

Another Child Dies. Will DC EMS Improve Now?

May 8, 2010

We reported back in mid-March on our blog site on the issues surrounding an investigation of the District of Columbia’s Emergency Medical Services. Since then, DC EMS has represented that they have made positive changes to their department.  In a headline article posted on MSNBC.com at the end of this past week, D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services Chief, Dennis L. Rubin, represented positive changes are being made:

Rubin said he is working to drive home a key point: providers never decline transport.

His staff is developing a “patient’s bill of rights” to be posted in every ambulance and producing a new  training video underscoring that message. In addition, the policy has been expanded to cover instances in which a patient refuses to be transported, including the requirement that responders get an OK from a supervisor and have a witness, such as a police officer, confirm the patient’s decision.

We certainly hope this is the case.  Our prior post cited a troubling report from April 2009, wherein it was found that there were serious training and performance issues relating to DC EMS.  The article posted at the end of  this past week also details another tragic event that unfolded after the report in April 2009:

Stephanie Stephens died after paramedics refused to take her to the hospital Feb. 10 in the first of two visits to her home after she experienced breathing problems. Her death has prompted a rare criminal investigation and raised questions about ambulance policies in Washington and emergency care for children nationwide.

After the paramedics recommended she be taken into a bathroom to inhale steam from a running shower, Stephanie’s family called back hours later and an EMS crew took her to a hospital. The child died from pneumonia the next day.

Anyone have issue with this?  How many tragedies must we endure before there is ZERO TOLERANCE for such costly delays?!  The citizens and guests of DC are dependent upon DC EMS to provide assistance immediately; not to give bad medical advice, try to play doctor, or decide that they will just simply not transport someone.  Read the report from last year cited above, along with the relevant articles.  Then, you decide.  I wonder what Stephanie’s family thinks…

Facts You May Not Know, but Should!- Hidden Dangers of Trampolines

April 30, 2010

Well, it looks like it will be 80 plus degrees and sunny outside for the first weekend of May here in the Nation’s Capital.  This means lots of outdoor activities; pool parties, lawn games, playing in the park…some will even have trampolines on their property, with the neighborhood kids coming over to use them.  CBS News reports on some of the hidden dangers of trampolines, as posted in an article today:        

Last year alone, an estimated 98,000 people were treated in emergency rooms for trampoline related injuries. 82 percent of them were children under the age of 15.

Trampoline safety expert Marc Rabinoff, of Metropolitan State College of Denver, Colo., calls trampolines “quad machines” because they can turn you into a quadriplegic in four seconds.”

Warnings on trampolines say no flips, no jumpers younger than 6 and only one jumper at a time, but those warnings are often ignored. Koeppen pointed out videos from YouTube that show children jumping and falling from trampolines.

Rabinoff says people don’t realize trampolines are a danger in their backyard. Rabinoff demonstrated to Koeppen how jumping with more than one person can throw you off.

The article goes on to state that ‘safety nets’ placed around the trampoline can reduce accidents by up to 50%.  However, they are not required by law.  In addition, and take note – insurance companies may not necessarily cover trampoline accidents on their policies.  Coming from Florida last year, where I practiced plaintiff personal injury law, I can tell you that I was contacted on more than one occasion by families who had a loved one injured as a result of a trampoline accident.  Each time I would check the homeowner’s policy of the responsible homeowner, (if they even had homeowner’s insurance; some didn’t) there was the EXCLUSION for such accidents!  No coverage!

The article also suggests that trampoline owners should erect fences around their property, to prevent others from wandering on the property and injuring themselves on or around the trampoline.  I, for one, will not be allowing my first-born son on any trampoline anytime soon.  In this line of work, you really do get to see the worst of what can happen, when a chain of events causes something to go terribly wrong.  Why ask for trouble?

Bicyclist Dies in Collision With DC Guard Truck

April 13, 2010

In recent weeks, we have discussed bicycle and pedestrian safety within blogs on our firm website.  Unfortunately, the tragedies continue to mount, and the most recent DC bicycle fatality is related to the traffic issues surrounding the DC Nuclear Security Summit, that is now taking place here in the District.  As NBC News has just reported:

A woman was killed Monday night when her bicycle collided with a five-ton truck doing security work for a motorcade for the Nuclear Security Summit in Northwest Washington.  

The accident happened around 6 p.m. at the intersection of 12th Street and New York Avenue, NW.

The vehicle that collided with the woman was a five-ton truck with the D.C. National Guard.

“It was moving forward to block as a procession was coming through,” said Major Gen. Errol Schwartz of the D.C. Guard.

At this time, it is still unclear who is at fault.  Regardless, we again urge all motorists , pedestrians, and cyclists to obey all applicable traffic laws.  Currently, the road situation in DC is, for lack of a better word, a mess.  A significant section of NW is currently completely inaccessible, and it is taking a very, very long time to get around anywhere in downtown DC.

The NBC article also details the current road closures, which continue all day today.  Click here for a complete list, and to view real-time traffic maps.

Now, I can tell you first-hand from living in the District, that traffic has been just miserable to deal with over the past several days!!  Having a tremendously increased security presence at this time is needed, I know.  However, I can ALSO tell you first-hand that this past Saturday, my wife and I were almost plowed into by an unmarked police escort in Georgetown, as we attempted to leave the area.  This was only one four car motorcade.  Imagine what forty plus motorcades for the various heads of state are doing right now as we speak…BE CAREFUL OUT THERE!