Articles Posted in Nursing Home Abuse & Neglect

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Chicago is home to over 70,000 licensed attorneys. Finding a lawyer that is right for you can be a daunting task. The internet and the television airwaves are flooded with advertisements for lawyers that promise big settlements and no fees unless you win. The question you need to ask yourself and the lawyer that you interview is are you qualified, by the nature of your prior experience, to handle my case and see it through to the bitter end.

Medical Malpractice is a very expensive and specialized area of practice. Lawyers who handle medical malpractice litigation typically spend hundreds of thousands of dollars and countless man hours prosecuting a succesful claim. The skills necessary to be a succesful practicioner are not learned overnight. At Goldberg & Goldberg we have been in the medical malpractice business for more then forty years. The least experienced member of our firm has been handling medical cases for fifteen years. We work up and try all of our cases ourselves. We can, and routinely do, take appellate matters before the state supreme court. We have represented litigants in all manner of litigation in more then twenty different states.

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When you interview a lawyer that you have become acquainted with over the internet or through a television advertisement ask him if he handles his cases himself or refers them out to a more experienced lawyer. Ask how many medical malpractice jury trials he has taken to verdict as a first chair lawyer. Ask him or her about past results and ask to see jury verdict reports to document his experience. At Goldberg & Goldberg we have had hundreds of verdicts and settlements in excess of $1 million. We have the largest personal injury verdict in Illinois history. Our track record speaks for itself. We would be happy to show you examples of some of our results in court.

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Victim’s of medical malpractice at Chicago area hospitals should not expect an apology from those doctors or the hospital that is at fault for their injury. It has long been the custom and practice of Chicago area physicians to never dare to apologize or admit any mistakes, no matter how devastating.

Not so at the University of Michigan. Doctors there say that admitting their mistakes upfront and offering fair financial compensation saves time, money and hurt feelings. According to a 2009 article in the Journal Of Health And Life Sciences law, the effectiveness of taking responsibility of medical mistakes goes beyond common decency. According to the article, malpractice claims against a health system with a policy of offering early apologies and settlements fell from 121 in 2001 to 61 in 2006, while the backlog of open claims went from 262 in 2001 to 106 in 2006 and 83 in 2007. Between 2001 and 2007, the average time to process a claim fell from about 20 months to about eight months, costs per claim were halved and insurance reserves dropped by two-thirds.

There is evidence that this approach is catching on in the Chicago area. Apparently the University of Illinois is considering adopting an apologize and settler early approach to adjusting malpractice claims. This type of forward thinking makes sense from both a financial and humanitarian perspective.

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A study prepared by the Chicago Reporter shows that black Chicago area nursing home residents receive the worst quality care in the country. There is just one nursing home in the Chicago area rated excellent by the federal government where the majority of the patients are black. These homes have more federal violations, medical malpractice and personal injury claims against them then majority white nursing homes.

The Reporter analyzed records from over 15,000 nursing homes nationwide in order to determine whether disparities exist in the quality of care based on a variety of factors, including race. The Reporter found that the worst rating was given to 57% of Chicago area nursing homes where the patient population was majority black.

Nursing homes have to comply with a variety of state and federal regulations that govern the quality of care required of their patients. There is a particular need to regulate nursing homes as they are usually operated as a for profit business and the patients are typically infirm and/or elderly. In 1987 the federal government passed The Omnibus Budget Reconcilliation Act which outlined the rights of nursing home patients, including the right to be properly evaluated at the time of admission and regularly thereafter as well as the right to have a doctor care for them.

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How do we cap medical malpractice without capping medical malpractice awards for those patients who are injured by the negligence of doctors. Everyone agrees that the health care system in the United States is in need of a drastic overhaul. The key is accomplishing an overhaul without further abridging the rights of the needy.

Andy Hoffman in Friday’s Daily Kos Online wrote an excellent editorial suggesting a novel, yet thusfar, unexplored solution to reducing the cost of medical malpractice claims on society. Weed out the worst offenders, those doctors who repeatedly victimize their patients and have no business practicing medicine.

Focusing on medical malpractice caps will do nothing to reduce health care costs. California, as Hoffman notes, has had caps on medical malpractice awards for the past 34 years. The caps in california are drastic, $250,000 limits on malpractice awards, and have had literally no effect on the cost of malpractice insurance or the price of health care in that state. Why not focus on the cause of medical malpractice cases and the conduct of those bad doctors who are driving up prices for everyone else, rather then the victims? Sounds reasonable to us.

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Searching for a lawyer who practices in the area of medical malpractice in Chicago, Illinois is as easy as opening up you web browser and Googling “medical malpractice chicago.” When i ran this search term Google returned 275,000 search results. The first page of results alone listed more then 30 lawyers, including those who have purchased sponsored ads. I know a lot of these lawyers, and some of them do practice in the area of medical malpractice and are very fine attorneys. The vast majority of others are “brokers”, business men who earn a living referring cases to other lawyers who are capable of actually working on a case and expecting part of the fee as a result of finding the case.

At Goldberg & Goldberg we have been practicing in the area of medical malpractice in Chicago for more then forty years. We do not broker cases out to other lawyers. We work up and try our client’s cases ourselves. Our results speak for themselves. We have collected almost $1 billion in compensation for our clients.

When you interview a lawyer that you have found on the internet about his ability to handle your case you are making an intensely important decision. Can this lawyer carry my banner and accomplish the herculean task of bringing a hospital or doctor to his knees in court. In order to do this you should ask a few basic questions of your potential lawyer to see if he has the right stuff to handle your case. If the lawyer hems and haws when answering your direct question you should consider finding someone else to represent you. Here are some sample questions you should ask:

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Sadly, medical mistakes continue to be one of the leading causes of death in the United States.  There are close to 100,000 preventable deaths a year in America making medical errors the fifth leading cause of death in our country.  A culture of shame and a lack of accountability often times prevents full disclosure of medical mistakes to the victims or their families.

In Great Britain steps are being taken at the legislative level to change the secrecy that often involves a medical mistake.  Legislation is being introduced which would make it a doctor’s duty to inform the patient or his family if a medical mistake has occured.  This duty of candor will be imposed upon all health care providers and their corporate managers.

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The Chicago Sun-Times is reporting that the death of a 63 year old man who lived at the Burnham Terrace Nursing Home in Burnham, Illinois was a murder.  Thomas Donavan later died at South Shore Hospital from multiple injuries suffered during the assault, hypertension and diabetes.

Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect continues to be a problem for our nation’s growing elderly population.  Residents of nursing homes are entittled to a safe and caring environment when they are confined to a residential care facility like a nursing home. 

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Alex Parker of the Chi-Town Daily News is reporting that according to the Illinois Department of Public Health, the University of Chicago Medical Center is guilty of violating a federal law by not giving an elderly patient who later died adequate medical treatment.  The University of Chicago’s own internal investigation demonstrated that its staff did not follow the U of C’s own policies and procedures when caring for the patient.

The Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA) is a federal law that requires every emergency room to offer stabilizing treatment to any patient who comes to the emergency room for treatment, regardless of ability to pay.

Anyone who meeds medical care at an emergency room is absolutely entitled to be triaged and monitored regardless of the circumstances.  EMTALA absolutely forbids hospitals from engaging in the practice of patient “dumping” including outright denials of treatment or a referral to another ER.  This practice often occurs when a low income or senior citizen appears at an ER facility and does not appear to be able to pay for care.

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In what is being reported as a Chicago example of a growing trend nationwide, a 77 year old man south-side nursing home resident was killed by his 50 year-old mentally ill roommate.  Over the past several years nursing homes have become common places to put mentally ill adults who have nowhere else to go.  The unfortunate problem is that most nursing home facilities are not staffed with care givers who have the appropriate skill sets necessary to deal with mentally ill, and often violent, patients.

Illinois ranks first nationwide in the number of mentally ill patients under the age of 65 who live in nursing or assisted care facilities.

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When a nursing home assumes the care of an elderly or infirm patient they owe him or her the obligation to provide a safe and nurturing living environment.  We have seen an uptick in these types of cases in our own practice and are concerned that this is a growing trend that will effect Chicago’s elderly as the projected elderly population in america grows over the next many years.

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Our clients often ask us about damages in medical malpractice cases.  Sometimes they tell us that they aren’t interested in financial compensation and only want to do something to make sure that their doctor doesnt hurt anybody else.

The remedy in civil medical malpractice is financial.  When we proceed with a medical malpractice lawsuit we go to court seeking money damages.  What those damages will be is ultimately a decision that will be made by a jury after being presented with evidence of both economic and pecuniary loss. 

Some of our clients are happy to learn that each and every malpractice claim is reported to a national databank which is more or less a doctor’s permanent record.  Additionally, the Illinois Department of Professional Responsibility investigates every malpractice claim that goes to verdict or settles to determine if the doctor’s license ought to be affected.