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Washington, D.C. Personal Injury Blog

Monday, January 20, 2014

Be Wary of Carbon Monoxide Levels During Winter

Be Wary of Carbon Monoxide Levels During Winter

If you live in cooler climes, winter is a time to take precautions against carbon monoxide poisoning.  Residents of the northern parts of the country are starting to seal up their homes to keep them warm over the winter, which can increase the threat of carbon monoxide poisoning.  

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, carbon monoxide poisoning is the leading cause of accidental poisoning deaths in the United States.  Rates of injury and death are highest in the winter and among residents of the Midwest and Northeast United States.  To minimize risk, it is important to understand the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning and how to prevent it in your home and other sealed locations like your car and garage. .

Carbon monoxide is a dangerous gas that you cannot see, smell, hear, taste or feel.  Without detection equipment, your first clue that carbon monoxide is present may be symptoms of poisoning in yourself or a loved one.  Many household appliances produce carbon monoxide, including oil- and gas-burning furnaces, portable generators and charcoal grills.

Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
A person with carbon monoxide poisoning may exhibit flu-like symptoms, such as:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Chest pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Confusion

Pets as well as humans can exhibit these symptoms.  If anyone in your home shows these signs, it is important to immediately:

  • Provide fresh air, either by leaving the premises or opening all doors and windows
  • Put distance between the victim and the likely source of the carbon monoxide
  • Call 911 and state that you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Get medical attention for the victim
  • Have your home inspected before returning (your local fire department or police department should be able to help with this)

Preventing Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Carbon monoxide can easily be fatal if untreated, especially among children and the elderly,.  Increase your family’s peace of mind by taking the following steps to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning:

  • Install CO detectors outside every bedroom and in the basement or where your oil or gas-powered appliances are.
  • Get regular service for appliances that use oil or gas.
  • Do not use appliances to heat your home that are not built for that purpose, such as portable camping stoves, lanterns, charcoal grills or your oven.
  • Never sleep in a room heated by a gas or kerosene space heater.

Taking these simple steps can keep your family safe from CO poisoning throughout the winter months.
 


Friday, January 10, 2014

Defensive Medicine: Many Doctors “Over-Treat” Patients Due to Fear of Medical Malpractice Claims

Defensive Medicine: Many Doctors “Over-Treat” Patients Due to Fear of Medical Malpractice Claims

The skyrocketing cost of medical malpractice insurance premiums has changed the way many physicians practice medicine, prompting some to refuse certain patients with complex medical problems or to order unnecessary tests on other patients. Such “defensive medicine” can involve unwarranted lab tests or x-rays or even more invasive procedures to help ensure “certainty” regarding a diagnosis. Even more troubling for the most vulnerable patients, defensive medicine can result in a surgeon’s refusal to perform a complex operation on a sick patient for fear of a negative outcome and eventual malpractice lawsuit.

A recent study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine revealed that many patients receive “too much” medical care and treatment. The study found that 42 percent of American primary care physicians believe that patients receive more aggressive medical care than is necessary. The study also revealed that many doctors feel they must provide “excessive care” to patients, due in large part, to concerns about being the subject of medical malpractice claims.

The study involved 627 physicians, most of whom had practiced medicine for nearly 25 years. Of the doctors surveyed, just 6 percent expressed concern that patients were receiving too little care. Most doctors reason that they could risk medical malpractice lawsuits if they fail to take every conceivable measure to cure or prevent an illness. They admitted over-treating and over-testing, in order to attain clinical performance standards, despite the small amount of time they have to actually consult with each patient.

The vast majority of physicians surveyed – 83 percent – believe they could be sued if they opted not to order every test that is indicated for a particular situation. On the other hand, just over 1 in 5 doctors believe they could be sued for ordering an unnecessary test.

Nearly half of the survey respondents reported that nurse practitioners and physician assistants provided more aggressive treatment than primary care doctors, and 61 percent indicated that subspecialists also provide more aggressive treatment. Experts believe that defensive medicine could be mitigated if doctors more effectively communicated with their patients about their illness and the pros and cons of various tests.


Monday, December 23, 2013

Medical Malpractice, Standards of Care and Your Legal Rights

Despite efforts to mitigate their occurrence, medical errors by doctors, nurses and other healthcare providers result in a significant number of injuries and deaths every year.  It’s important to note that not every treatment which results in the degradation of the patient's condition(s) or in failure to restore health constitutes medical error or malpractice.  Instead, malpractice occurs when there is professional negligence by healthcare providers or facilities.


Professional negligence by act or omission by a health care provider occurs when the treatment provided falls below the accepted standard of practice in the medical community and causes injury or death to the patient. In order to determine whether there was malpractice, the key issue is whether physicians and caretakers followed accepted standards of care.


Read more . . .


Monday, December 16, 2013

Have You Been Injured on the Job? What if Your Employer Has No Workers’ Compensation Insurance?

In most states, employers are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance to cover workplace injuries sustained by their employees. Workers’ compensation insurance is a “no fault” system which allows every employee to receive benefits for a job-related injury, regardless of who caused the accident or illness, though intentional, self-inflicted injuries may be excluded from workers' compensation benefits. The system balances the needs of workers, who are entitled to receive prompt medical treatment for their injuries, with the needs of employers who can conduct their business operations free from the fear of being sued by an injured employee. Workers’ compensation programs can provide claimants with medical benefits and, provided certain requirements are met, temporary compensation payments until the employee is able to return to work. In certain situations, claimants may also receive permanent benefits such as job retraining or supportive medical care.

 


Read more . . .


Monday, December 9, 2013

Should I Sue for My Injuries?

Whether you’ve been injured as result of a car accident, fall at the local market or a bite by a neighbor’s pit bull, you may be asking yourself, “Should I Sue?” Most people think they should, and that a sizable settlement payment will be forthcoming.

In our legal system, a negligent party is expected to pay for damages you incurred because of the accident or injury, such as medical costs, lost income, property damage, and pain and suffering. In certain cases, punitive damages may be awarded if a person’s conduct was malicious or intentional. Nevertheless, just because you have been injured does not necessarily mean that you should file a lawsuit, a decision which rests on multiple factors.


Read more . . .


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Pros and Cons of Settling a Case

 

If you have been injured by the negligent actions of another, you may be entitled to compensation for your medical expenses, physical and emotional pain and suffering, permanent physical impairment or disfigurement, lost income, decreased earning capacity, property damage, or other economic losses. Deciding whether to settle a personal injury lawsuit without taking the case to trial is a major decision demanding the full consideration of many factors.

Some plaintiffs wish to settle the matter quickly, while others want to let a judge or jury determine whether damages should be awarded and how much. There are advantages and disadvantages to each option; only you can decide what is best for your specific situation but an attorney can help you put the pros and cons of each option into perspective.

The vast majority of personal injury lawsuits never see a courtroom, evidence that the benefits of early settlement are compelling to a great number of injury victims. Settling a case is often more advantageous to the injured party, rather than taking the case to trial.If you have received a settlement offer from the defendant or the defendant’s insurance company, you should review the offer with your attorney as soon as possible.

Settlement agreements have many advantages. Settling your case is much quicker than taking your case to trial, which can take up to a year – or more, depending on the jurisdiction and the complexity of the case. You can receive the money, or at least a portion of it, immediately so you can pay off your medical bills and repair property damage. Your attorneys’ fees and other legal costs are greatly reduced by avoiding protracted discovery and the trial itself. Additionally, the emotional benefits are undeniable. You have the peace of mind of knowing exactly how much money you will receive, and you can get emotional closure right away so you can move on. Finally, settlement agreements can remain confidential, whereas court proceedings are public records.

On the other hand, there are tradeoffs. In exchange for the benefits stated above, you will typically have to accept a smaller monetary award than you might get if the case goes before a judge or jury.

Taking your case to trial, letting the court decide the outcome, also has its advantages and disadvantages. If you go to trial and win, you may feel a sense of emotional satisfaction having prevailed in the lawsuit. And, as noted above, you may be awarded a much higher amount than what was offered in the settlement negotiations.

However, there is never any guarantee that you will win your case at trial, or that the amount awarded will be more than what you could have settled the case for. The value of any settlement offer or potential court verdict must be weighed against the increased costs of dragging the case out for many more months before a trial can take place. In considering your options, an experienced personal injury lawyer can provide you with a realistic assessment of whether a settlement offer is fair, and the likelihood of winning a greater award at trial.


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Confidential Settlements

The vast majority of significant personal injury settlement offers come with a catch – the defendant wants a confidentiality clause included in the settlement agreement, barring the plaintiff and his or her attorneys from publicly discussing the facts of the case or terms of the settlement.In exchange for keeping their “mouths shut”, plaintiffs often benefit by obtaining higher compensation.  In many circumstances, the plaintiffs also have a preference for maintaining their own privacy.

Why do the defendants’ attorneys routinely insist on confidentiality clauses in their settlement agreements? Typically, defendants – and their attorneys – want to prevent evidence, such as witnesses or documents, from being accessible to future plaintiffs. In the grand scheme of things, this makes the defendant less accountable for its conduct.

Arguably, our legal system and the overall population would benefit from an outright rejection of confidential settlement agreements. Yet, most plaintiffs’ lawyers quickly capitulate; a settlement in hand is a sure thing, prevents future expenses necessary to bring a case to trial, and avoids the uncertainty regarding how much a jury might award in damages. Plaintiffs typically agree to maintain secrecy, as well. Seriously injured victims and their family members may be struggling financially and emotionally, and have a strong desire to put the matter behind them. It is understandable that they focus on their own needs and recovery, rather than how it may impact future plaintiffs’ or the public’s access to information and evidence.

Some attorneys and ethicists believe that lawyers’ rules of professional conduct provide them with sufficient grounds to reject secrecy clauses. Most states’ ethical rules favor enabling the public to have a realistic understanding of which attorneys have expertise in cases involving certain circumstances or against particular defendants.

However, those same rules of professional conduct also require attorneys to act in the best interests of the client – which often means agreeing to a speedy or generous settlement offer. Some legal ethicists suggest addressing confidentiality upfront, at the beginning of settlement negotiations. However, this approach may reduce the amount of a future settlement offer, or cause the defendant to take settlement off the table entirely. This risk, too, must be discussed with and agreed to by the client.

Furthermore, in this type of situation, the risk is borne by the plaintiff but the benefits are only realized by the general public, as mentioned above, or the lawyer who later enjoys “bragging rights” when he would otherwise be muzzled. It can be a tough sell, and one fraught with its own ethical implications. In the end, only the client can decide what is best for his or her situation. Some will agree to the risk “for the greater good” while others must do what is best for them and their families.
 


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

5 Tire Safety Hazards

Proper maintenance of your vehicle is an important step toward ensuring your safety on the road. Tire failures at high speeds can result in vehicle rollovers, serious injuries and death. Below are five safety hazards to watch out for; the presence of any of these conditions can indicate that your tires should be repaired or replaced – before it is too late.

Tires Not Inflated to the Proper Air Pressure: Incorrect tire pressure compromises both the comfort and safety of your ride. Improper pressure affects braking, cornering, stability, mileage and tire life. Furthermore, tires that are not inflated to the proper pressure face a higher risk of catastrophic failure resulting in a serious accident. Low tire pressure causes increased friction and can overheat the tire, causing tread separation. The recommended tire pressure is always less than the maximum allowable pressure stated on the tire itself. Your vehicle’s recommended tire pressure can be found in the owner’s manual, or the label on the car’s driver’s side door, glove compartment or gas tank door.

Worn Tread: If the tread on your tires has worn down, you are at an increased risk of a blowout or hydroplaning accident.  Additionally, worn tread may indicate a more serious problem, such as improper balance, suspension or alignment. Finally, tires with worn tread are more likely to be underinflated, affecting steering, braking and mileage, and causing further safety risks due to improper air pressure.

Tire Repeatedly Loses Air Pressure: If you often notice that one of your tires seems low, despite the fact that you have inflated the tires to the proper pressure, this could indicate a leak. There may be a small puncture in the tire’s tread, perhaps caused by driving over a nail, or it may be caused by a poor seal between the tire and rim or a damaged valve. These problems can often be repaired, rather than having to replace the tire. Ignoring the problem can lead to a sudden drop in tire pressure while on the road, which can result in a blowout or loss of control.

Bulge in the Sidewall: Any budge, regardless of size, indicates that the tire’s integrity has been compromised and the tire should be replaced immediately. This could be due to an impact with a curb or pothole. When such a bulge occurs, the steel belts inside the tire have weakened and can no longer ensure safe operation of the vehicle. Care should also be taken to ensure that the impact that caused the tire bulge did not also cause damage to the wheel itself.

Old Tires/Vehicles in Storage: If your tires are old or the vehicle has been immobile for a lengthy period of time, the tires may be affected by a form of “dry rot.” Regardless of how climate-controlled the storage environment is, tires that sit for extended periods will weaken over time until they are unsafe for travel. Similarly, old tires will show signs of degradation. You can identify this problem by examining the tire for small cracks in the tire’s sidewall. If any cracks are present, the tire should be replaced.


Friday, October 25, 2013

Medical Malpractice - Do You Have A Case

Your Doctor Made a Mistake – But Do You Have a Medical Malpractice Case?

The term “medical malpractice,” sometimes called medical negligence, refers to a situation in which a health care provider fails to act in accordance with standards of accepted medical practice, causing injury or death to the patient. A physician, nurse or other health care professional is considered negligent if his or her conduct is below the “standard of care,” i.e. the degree of care and skill that the typical health care professional would provide to a patient seeking treatment for similar symptoms or under similar circumstances.

It’s not just doctors and nurses who can be sued for medical malpractice. Any licensed health care provider who is in a position of trust can be held accountable for diagnosis or treatment that causes injury or death. These can include lab technicians, radiology technicians, specialists who interpret your test results, ambulance companies and their employees, and facilities such as hospitals, nursing homes and pharmacies.

There are many types of mistakes which may be considered “medical malpractice,” depending on the overall circumstances of your injury or illness and the treatment you received. Common medical malpractice claims include:

  • Incorrect or missed diagnosis
  • Failure to conduct appropriate diagnostic tests
  • Failure to properly treat your medical condition
  • Failure to properly administer medications
  • Failure to properly perform a surgical procedure
  • Failure to manage a pregnancy or safely deliver a baby
  • Failure to warn you of the risks of treatment, which would enable you to give your fully informed consent to the treatment
  • Failure to anticipate a problem which should have been anticipated in accordance with the standard of care

Even if your medical treatment results in a negative outcome, the doctor’s or nurse’s conduct may not rise to the level of malpractice or negligence. Furthermore, even if the treatment you received clearly fell below the standard of care and is deemed “negligent,” you may run into difficulties bringing your claim due to the high cost of litigating a medical malpractice case. Because medical malpractice cases often hinge on the definition of the “standard of care” required for that particular situation, experts must be consulted and retained to prepare reports, give depositions and testify in court.

You should consult with an experienced medical malpractice attorney who can help you determine whether the health care provider’s negligence was truly the result of malpractice and whether your case is worth pursuing. Your attorney will review your medical records and will likely have to retain a medical expert who can review your records to evaluate the merits of your claim.  My firm is dedicated to representing people who have been injured due to negligent medicare care. We routinely take on health care providers and their insurance companies, regardless of cost to obtain the best results for our clients. The compensation we obtain, either through settlement or from a jury, provides medical care and rehabilitation necessary to rebuild a client's life.
 


Friday, October 25, 2013

What Can I Get From My Injury Claim?

Damages Allowed in Personal Injury Cases

If you have been injured in an accident, and another party is to blame, you may be able to obtain monetary damages from that person or business to compensate you for medical expenses, loss of income and pain and suffering as a result of the accident.  

There are a variety of types of damages allowed in personal injury cases. Those damages can be divided into several categories. First, there are compensatory damages and punitive damages. There are also two types of compensatory damages: economic and non-economic.

Compensatory damages are damages that are intended to compensate a person for a loss or problem relating to a personal injury, including monetary losses, pain and suffering and physical impairment. Punitive damages are intended to punish the negligent party for its wrongdoing, and aren’t specifically related to a loss the plaintiff suffered.

For example, if a company decided to dump toxic waste into a creek instead of disposing of it safely, and as a result a woman living next to the creek developed cancer, her compensatory damages may include amounts for her medical expenses, her lost wages, and her pain and suffering.  In addition to these damages, the jury may also decide to award punitive damages, which are strictly intended to punish the company for its wrongdoing. Punitive damages are somewhat rare – in most cases, plaintiffs only receive compensatory damages.

Compensatory damages can be further divided into economic damages and non-economic damages. Economic damages are those damages that result in an identifiable economic loss. For example, economic damages include medical expenses, lost wages, the cost of hiring a helper or nurse, and the cost of special transportation or medical equipment that’s needed as a result of the accident.

Non-economic damages are damages for harm relating to the injury sustained that are difficult to quantify using a specific dollar amount. Instead, non-economic damages are awarded to a person who has suffered a diminished quality of life as a result of the accident. Some examples of non-economic damages include emotional distress, pain and suffering, embarrassment or humiliation, loss of enjoyment of life, loss of consortium (sexual relations) and scarring or disfigurement. Although non-economic losses can be difficult to quantify, they are an important component of a personal injury case.


Friday, February 22, 2013

College Campuses Are Unsafe for Women

     On the Fox News show, “The Five” Bob Beckel, one of the show’s co-hosts actually doubted the occurrence of rape on college campuses. His exact quote was: “When was the last time you heard about a rape on campus?” I thought I would take a moment to share with you some of the alarming statistics concerning the likelihood of a women being a victim of rape on an American college campus. In 2010, the United States Department of Justice estimated that 25 percent of college women "will be victims of rape or attempted rape before they graduate within a four-year college period." It also noted that women "between the ages of 16 to 24 will experience rape at a rate that's four times higher than the assault rate of all women." And, it said, schools with more than 6,000 students "average one rape per day during the school year.” According to New York University's National Statistics about Sexual Violence on College Campuses, fewer than 5 percent of such cases are reported to law enforcement. The following statistics were compiled by the New York State Coalition Against Sexual Assault

• At least 1 in 4 college women will be the victim of a sexual assault during her academic career.

• At least 80% of all sexual assaults are committed by an acquaintance of the victim. Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2001

• 48.8% of college women who were victims of attacks that met the study’s definition of rape did not consider what happened to them rape. Bureau of Justice Stats. “Sexual Victimization of Collegiate Women” 2000, US DOJ.

• More than 70% of rape victims knew their attackers, compared to about half of all violent crime victims.

• There are 35.3 incidents of sexual assault per 1,000 female students on a campus as recorded over a 6.91 month period (the academic year of ‘96 – ’97) as reported in the 2000 Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics report “The Sexual Victimization of College Women.”

• On average, at least 50% of college students’ sexual assaults are associated with alcohol use. Within the study’s nationally represented sample of college students the results found that 74% of perpetrators and 55% of rape victims had been drinking alcohol prior to the assault.

• In a survey of high school students, 56% of girls and 76% of boys [some of whom may be incoming college freshmen] believed forced sex was acceptable under some circumstances. Acquaintance Rape: The Hidden Crime, 1991.

     Last April, Vice President Joseph Biden and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan introduced comprehensive guidance to help schools, colleges and universities better understand their obligations under federal civil rights laws to prevent and respond to the problem of campus sexual assault. The new guidance, makes clear the legal obligations under Title IX of any school, college or university receiving federal funds to respond promptly and effectively to sexual violence. The guidance also provides practical examples to aid educators in ensuring the safety of their students. Under Title IX – a federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in education programs and activities – discrimination can include sexual violence, such as rape, sexual assault, sexual battery and sexual coercion. The guidance, the first specifically advising schools, colleges and universities that their responsibilities under Title IX include protecting students from sexual violence, also details enforcement strategies that schools and the Department’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) may use to end sexual violence, prevent its recurrence, and remedy its effects. Young women aged 16-24 experience the highest rates of rape and sexual assault, while 1 in 5 will be a victim of sexual assault during college.

     Rape is a horrible violent crime against women. Victims of sexual assault are more likely to suffer academically and more likely to become depressed and suffer post-traumatic stress disorder, to abuse alcohol and drugs, and to contemplate suicide. The harm rape causes is long lasting and deeply emotional. If a rape occurs on a college campus, what are a school’s obligations under Title IX regarding sexual violence?

• First the school must notify law enforcement officials and cooperate fully in disclosing the identity and circumstances of the assault. • Once a school knows of a possible sexual violence, it must take immediate and appropriate action to investigate or otherwise determine what occurred.

• If sexual violence has occurred, a school must take prompt and effective steps to end the sexual violence, prevent its recurrence, and address its effects, whether or not the sexual violence is the subject of a criminal investigation.

• A school must take steps to protect the complainant as necessary, including interim steps taken prior to the final outcome of the investigation.

• A school must provide a grievance procedure for students to file complaints of sex discrimination, including complaints of sexual violence.

     We have been successful in representing women who have been the victims of violent sexual assaults. If you or a loved one has been the victim of a sexual assault either at a school, college campus, hotel, or even at your job please don’t hesitate to contact my firm.

Stay Safe.

Richard F. Silber, Esquire


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Richard F. Silber is admitted to practice in Washington, D.C. and Maryland. From his office in Georgetown, he and his legal team assist clients throughout the Washington metropolitan area.



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| Phone: 202-338-0687

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