Tag Archive for 'injuries'

Nurses Need Better Protections from Workplace Injuries

According to the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), nursing assistants are subject to more than 35,000 back-related injuries every year.

nursing injurySome injuries are so severe nurses are forced to stay home from work. In fact, the BLS collected data that proved nursing assistants are injured more often than any other occupation’s employees. This includes truckers, warehouse workers, and registered nurses. Why are so many nursing assistants receiving back-related injuries, and what is being done to protect them?

The number one cause for back injuries for nursing assistants is lifting and handling patients. Many nurses must help patients off a bed, out of a chair, etc. Without the help of a machine or colleagues, sometimes lifting a patient is an impossible task. Many patients can be 250 to 300 pounds, and with the increasing obesity problem in America, nurses continue to injure their backs when lifting such patients. Some nurses are forced to end their career early due to injuries.

If so many nurses are getting injured, shouldn’t something be done?

Suzanne Gordon, author of Nursing Against the Odds, explains that “Too many hospital administrators see nursing staff as second-class citizens,” and therefore don’t afford them the same priority as other employees. Many hospitals do not house the machinery necessary for a nurse to safely move a patient. Even four nurses cannot safely handle a 300 pound patient without strain on their backs. The Baptist Health System in Florida and various medical centers in the Department of Veteran Affairs have implemented machines in order to decrease work place injuries. Since the machines have been installed, back related injuries in nurses have decreased by 80%.

Some hospitals have established the use of machines for patient handling and lifting, but most still require nurses to lift patients themselves. Most of the time, other colleagues are not available to help fellow nurses, deeming it impossible to avoid injury when handling a larger patient. On January 1, 2012, California passed the Hospital Patient and Health Care Worker Injury Protection Act. Not too long after, nursing employees from the Walnut Creek Kaiser location started filing complaints.

This Kaiser hospital is currently under fire for failing to have “specific procedures in place to ensure that sufficient staff was available to perform patient handles tasks safely.” Administrative Law Judge, Mary Dryovage, issued this order after a state investigator from California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health was alerted by nursing employees at the Kaiser hospital. The nurses filed a complaint with the state, alleging that Kaiser violated the law by not taking the proper safety precautions to protect the hospitals employees.

Kaiser has made a plan to spend at least $40 million to install lifting machines into its older hospitals, including Walnut Creek. Hopefully with the new installments, less nurses will become injured every year.

Nursing assistants who are injured on the job are not allowed to sue their employer for negligence. All employees give up their right to sue an employer for these issues in exchange for payment through workers compensation if injured on the job. Employees can file a personal injury lawsuit, but only against someone who is responsible for your injury and is not your employer.

Hopefully overtime, more patient-lifting machines will be installed for nurses to use. The number of nursing assistants becoming injured each year is unacceptable, and it’s time for them to become a priority.

Distracted Walking: The Dangers of Walking and Texting

We’ve all heard of the dangers of texting and driving. Nearly every state has enacted cell phone use laws criminalizing this behavior. However, there may be a far more dangerous cell phone related activity, and it mostly only involves our feet.

walking texting dangerA recent study conducted by Ohio State University indicates that pedestrian cell phone injuries doubled between 2004 and 2010, topping out around 1,500 nationwide incidents where pedestrians were rushed to the emergency room. The Pew Research Center indicates that nearly half of all cell phone users have reported being bumped by or bumping into someone or something while using their phone. Unsurprisingly, the age range of the most at-risk individuals is 16-25.

While many of these injuries may be minimal, cell phones are being blamed for the deaths of two teenage girls who were both tragically struck by trains in the San Francisco Bay Area. As these types of injuries and deaths become more common, it is likely that personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits will too. This potential for lawsuits may cause local governments to take action.

Regardless of how you feel about government regulation, criminalizing otherwise innocent behavior (i.e. using a smartphone) is not exactly ideal. As an alternative to criminalizing innocent behavior, it may be possible for local governments to limit or shut down cellular towers near train crossings or in busy, metropolitan areas during certain hours.

Will Personal Injury Lawsuits Eventually End Football?

That’s a question that several legal bloggers have been positing over the last few weeks. The concerns largely stem from studies suggesting that the long-term effects of concussion injuries (which are quite common in football players, including those at the age level of high school and younger) may be far more severe than anybody thought. This is focused around the revelation that suffering large numbers of very minor concussions (which are extremely common in football) significantly increases the long-term risk of severe brain disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease.

There have also been a few high-profile suicides committed by athletes, including a few very promising young football and hockey players. Autopsies revealed that some of these athletes suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which is a degenerative brain disorder caused by sustaining multiple concussions over a long period of time. The symptoms of this disorder include severe depression and dementia, which would partially explain the suicides.

As one might expect, there is some fear that this new information might lead to tort lawsuits, which would cost the defendants a large amount of money in judgments and settlements. It’s conceivable that several years of this could become so costly that insurance companies would stop offering liability insurance to football organizations, which would effectively prevent them from operating.

And even if the NFL manages to deflect these lawsuits, or absorb their costs, high school and college football programs may not be so lucky. If a large majority of these programs were shut down, the NFL would have a much smaller pool of new talent, which could bleed it dry in the long run.

Personally, I think that these fears about lawsuits destroying football are pretty overblown. It’s currently the most popular sport in the United States, and generates billions of dollars in economic activity. Furthermore, football players (at least at the college and professional level, where they’re adults) can be said to have assumed the risk of injury by voluntarily playing football.

However, at the high school level, the legal and moral issues become far less clear. After all, most high school students are under the legal age of consent, so it’s hard to claim that they knowingly and intelligently assumed the risk of brain injury. In most situations, a child’s parents can give consent for them. But if you assume that a child cannot make decisions with enough maturity to legally give consent for something (and that’s the assumption that underlies laws that establish an age of majority), and the risk they incur in playing football is permanent brain injury that follows them for the rest of their lives, it’s not really fair for their parents to make that decision for them, either.

Generally, however, I don’t think that football fans have anything to worry about. In fact, a few successful and costly lawsuits against football programs may actually improve its long-term prospects, as counterintuitive as that sounds.

After all, if a few football organizations were sued because some players suffered long-term brain injuries, they would probably have a good incentive to invest in better safety equipment, especially improved helmets. If this equipment significantly reduces the risk of CTE, football clubs will have far less to worry about in the lawsuit department.

Some commentators, while remaining hopeful about the future of football, raise a rather unsettling possibility: the NFL will simply use its substantial lobbying clout to persuade state legislatures to either ban lawsuits against them for CTE, or make such lawsuits so difficult for the plaintiffs that they aren’t worth the effort.

This might save football, but it’s arguably the worst possible outcome – even worse than football being sued out of existence. If personal injury lawsuits against football organizations are effectively banned, they will have no incentive to invest in safer equipment, or improve their safety rules.

This will mean another generation of young people suffering from chronic brain injury.

Basically, that illustrates the problem with the arguments made by many advocates of “tort reform.” We don’t face a choice between lawsuits destroying a beloved sports institution (or the entire economy), and making it impossible for victims of negligence who have suffered real injuries from receiving compensation from those injuries. But that’s how tort “reformers” often frame the debate.

In a legal system that guards against frivolous lawsuits, the civil justice system and the litigation process can be a force for positive change. If football clubs face lawsuits over brain injures, and these lawsuits become too costly, it will be in their economic self-interest to take steps to make the sport safer, either through investments in better safety equipment, or modifying the rules of the game to minimize head injury, or both.

There is historical precedent for this, as well. In 1905, football had just established itself as a popular sport in America. As more people played the game, more players began dying from injuries sustained on the field. It got to the point that there were serious proposals in Congress and state legislatures to ban the sport altogether. President Roosevelt persuaded the NFL to change the rules to eliminate certain plays that were responsible for most of these injuries. And thus, the sport was saved.

I’m sure a lot of people complained back then that these changes destroyed the spirit of the game. But over 100 years later, the sport of football is doing just fine. I think this is simply an example of history repeating itself. Football will adapt. And, hopefully, they won’t find it necessary to make it impossible for people who have been injured to recover compensation for their injuries.

Top Five Most Common Personal Injury Claims

America has always, always been cast as being an overly-litigious society, meaning that we are lawsuit happy.  In some ways, it’s true- a new lawsuit is supposedly born every 2 seconds in the U.S.A.  On the other hand, I believe that there are some circumstances where filing a lawsuit is really the most efficient way a person can be compensated for their losses.

A good example of this is when it comes to personal injury claims.  Calculating the damages for property damage is relatively easy- you just simply compare market values.  But when the damage is to a person’s own body, it can be difficult to tell exactly how much they have lost.  This is especially true when trying to factor in the effects of a personal injury, like lost wages or future loss of earning capacity.

In such cases, legal expertise may be needed to determine whether a person should be compensated, and by how much.  In attempts to help us understand personal injury claims more, here is a list of the top five most common personal injury claims and some background on their causes:

#5: Products Liability claims

Products liability injuries account for about 7% of all personal injury cases.  There are an estimated 20,000 products liability claims being filed each year.  People are bound to get injured due to the sheer number of products out there- products liability claims can involve anything from unsafe medical devices to faulty toys and even some pet products.

Also, products liability cases have the second-highest median (about $300,000) when it comes to damages awards. Only medical malpractice cases have a higher median for damages awards.  In my opinion some people file products liability claims because they know that manufacturers tend to be where the “deep pockets” are.  A common example of this is with the recent resurgence of big tobacco cases involving multi-million dollar, borderline excessive punitive damages awards.

#4: Slip and Fall claims

The National Safety Council reports that in 2007, slip and fall accidents accounted for the death of over 20,000 Americans, and contributed to over 7 million injuries.  One of the reasons why this one is so common is that it can happen just about anywhere- the supermarket, the mall, at work, even at home.  Also, the older a person is, the more susceptible they become to a slip and fall-type injury.  Slip and falls can be especially damaging to the spine, neck, head, or hips.

But, proving a slip and fall claim can sometimes be more difficult than for other personal injuries.  It usually involves a combination of negligence and premises liability theories- you’d have to prove that the owner of the premises somehow failed to remedy a dangerous condition such as a slippery floor.

#3: Assault claims

Though technically included under both tort and criminal law, assault claims still account for great number of bodily injury claims each year.  And even though many feel that violent crime is declining, we are still seeing an incredibly high amount of assaults every year- the Bureau of Justice recorded over 2 million simple assault cases in 2010 alone.

Again, these types of personal injury claims are so common because they are widespread.  They often happen in conjunction with other issues, such as domestic violence and alcohol abuse.  Assault injuries are unique in that they often include a claim for emotional distress as well as physical injury.

#2: Work-Related injuries

Despite “today’s economy” and the unemployment rates, work-related injuries are still near the top of this list.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics recorded over 3 million non-fatal work-related injuries in 2009 and almost 5,000 fatal work injuries in 2010.  Work-related injuries tend to involve repetitive stress injuries such as back injuries from lifting, neck injuries from reading, and carpal tunnel syndrome from typing too much.

One thing about work-related injuries is that many of them go unreported for fear of being fired or appearing too “needy”.  This means that figures may be even higher than we suspect.  In some cases this fear is understandable, given the current drought of work.  But, if you do have a legitimate need, don’t be afraid to bring it up with your boss.

#1: Road Traffic accidents

On average, there can be over 6 million car accidents yearly in the U.S.  These may include injuries to drivers as well as bicyclists and pedestrians.  Again, part of the cause is that we simply spend a great deal of time in our cars rather than walking.

It appears that road traffic injuries may be on the rise on account of more distractions, namely, smart phone usage while driving.  To those who currently have a smartphone-addiction and must drive, exercise some restraint and quarantine your phone in some unreachable spot.  Your notifications can wait until you reach your wi-fi enabled destination.

Conclusion

In my opinion, personal injury lawyers tend to have a bad rep due to the amount of unscrupulous lawsuits that are filed each year.  While I believe that the court system exists to help us, that doesn’t mean that we can file frivolous lawsuits or abuse the system.  Pretending you are injured is not a legitimate source of alternative income.  And of course, abusing the legal system can even have criminal consequences.

So while it is ok to seek legal recourse for personal injuries, just make sure that you use common sense and stay within the bounds permitted by law.  And keep an eye on those filing deadlines!

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Justice is Blind, But Apparently Not Immune to Jagged Staples

Remember in elementary school how your teacher would constantly harp on you about penmanship?  No?  Apparently, once again, I’m the odd man out as my first-grade teacher said my handwriting was comparable to Jeffrey Dahmer’s.  Well Mrs. Donaldson, at least I haven’t wasted my life for the past 20 years teaching a bunch of snot-nosed kids…  Anyway the point I was trying to make is that all that emphasis your parents, teachers, and adults in general have been putting on you since you were young about making things neat had a purpose after all.

It seems that our justice system is being run by a bunch of Catholic school nuns hell-bent on tidiness because court cases are being thrown out for completely arbitrary reasons.  How arbitrary you ask?  How about poorly-stapled-document arbitrary?

staple_remover_2Yes, that’s right people, if you’re planning on filing a claim in the New York Supreme Court, you better make sure your papers are aligned properly and the sharp points on your staples are filed down because the nuns running that court are also made out of sugar.  According to Justice Charles J. Markey, “[T]he poor stapling of the papers was so negligent as to inflict, and did inflict repeatedly, physical injury to the court personnel handling them.”  That must’ve been one incredibly bad staple job…

I’d hate to be the attorney on that one, what an uncomfortable phone call you’d have to make to the client.

“My motion was denied?  But how, I thought my case had a sound legal basis??  What, a staple??”

Now to be fair, that staple from hell did draw blood, twice.  And at the very least the court gave a reason for denying the motion, as unjustified as it may be, which is much better than what some courts give those trying to shove their cases before an almighty judge.  The court also claims that the reason for the denial stemmed from the lawyer forgetting to include his signature as well as missing affidavits from the plaintiff.  Way to recover…

Seriously though, a staple?  Reading this story, one can’t help but think of the first rule of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure: “all civil actions and proceedings in the United States district courts…should be construed and administered to secure the just…determination of every action and proceeding.”  Which any smart-ass first-year law student can tell you basically means that the court is supposed to look at all claims so as to do justice for all those involved.  Justice.  Denying a plaintiff’s motion because the staple they used to keep their documents from flying apart doesn’t sound very fair to me (and I hope it doesn’t to you either).  Whatever happened to, oh I don’t know, judging claims on their merits?  Call me crazy and old-fashioned, but I’m just one of the nutty guys who still believe that courts were created to judge everything fairly.  They should really start tearing down those blind justice statutes all over the place.

So what’s the moral of this story?  Evidently, it’s that when you hire a lawyer make sure you insist that they include their kindergarten teacher on their list of references.